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The Green 


Alan Green was not exactly a hero. In fact he 
liked peace just as well as the next man. Not that he 
was really afraid of that crazy, hot-blooded hound- 
dog Alzo, or even of the hound’s gorgeous owner, the 
Duchess Zuni — who was also hot-blooded (to say 
nothing of the Duke). After all, these things were 
understood on this backward, violent planet, and a 
man could manage, provided he was alert twenty-four 
hours a day. 

And as a matter of fact, Alan was only normally 
apprehensive of his Junoesque, tempestuous (but 
altogether lovable) wife Amra. Delightful, demand- 
ing Amr a — and her five uproarious kids. The trou- 
ble was, he was tired. And homesick. 

So when he heard of two other downed spacemen, 
he hitched a ride with a piratical merchant-captain on 
a windroller destined to carry him to the spaceship 
and thence to the peaceful green hills of Earth. But 
he had reckoned without the vagaries of the wind- 
roller, pirates, the “traveling islands,” the rascally 
Captain, and various flora and fauna peculiar to this 
planet — all of which, it now seemed, regarded Alan 
with unnerving malevolence. 

And worst of all, Amra was determined that he 
should be a hero. Amra won. 

This is an original novel — not a reprint — published 
by Ballantine Books, Inc. 


Philip Josif Fanner 

Make friends fast. 

. — Handbook For The Shipwrecked 

New York 

©, 1957, by 
Philip Jose Farmer 

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 57-10603 
Printed in the United States of America 

Ballantine Books, Inc. 

101 Fifth Avenue, 

New York 3, N. Y. 

To Nan Gerding 


For two years Alan Green had lived without hope. From the 
day the spaceship had crashed on this u nkn own planet he had 
resigned him self to the destiny created for him by accident 
and mathematics. Chances against another ship landing with- 
in the next hundred years were a million to one. Therefore it 
would do no good to sit around waiting for rescue. Much as 
he loathed the idea, he must live the rest of his life here, and 
he must squeeze as much blood as he could out of this planet- 
sized turnip. There wasn’t much to squeeze. In fact, it seemed 
to him that he was the one losing the blood. Shortly after he’d 
been cast away he’d been made a slave. 

Now, suddenly, he had hope. 

Hope came to him a month after he’d been made foreman 
of the kitchen slaves of the Duke of Tropat It came to him 
as he was standing behind the Duchess during a meal and di- 
recting those who were waiting upon her. 

It was the Duchess Zuni who had not so subtly maneuvered 
him from the labor pens to his coveted, if dangerous, position. 
Why dangerous? Because she was very jealous and possessive, 
and the slightest hint of lack of attention from him could mean 
he’d lose his life or one limb or another. The knowledge of 
what had happened to his two predecessors kept him extreme- 
ly sensitive to her every gesture, her every wish. 

That fateful morning he was standing behind her as she sat 
at one end of the long breakfast table. In one hand he held 
his foreman’s wand, a little white baton topped by a large red 
ball. With it he gestured at the slaves who served food, who 
poured wine and beer, who fanned away the flies, who carried 
in the household god and sat it on the god chair, who played 
something like music. Now and then he bent over the Duchess 
Zuni’s long black hair and whispered phrases from this or 
that love poem, praising her beauty, her supposed unattain- 


ability, and his burning, if seemingly hopeless, passion for her. 
Zuni would smile, or repeat the formula of thanks — the short 
one — or else giggle at his funny accent. 

The Duke sat at the other end of the table. He ignored 
the by-play, just as he ignored the so-called secret passage 
inside the walls of the castle, which Green used to get to the 
Duchess’s apartments. Custom demanded this, just as custom 
demanded that he should play the outraged husband if she 
got tired of Green or angry at him and accused him publicly of 
amorous advances. This was enough to make Green jittery, 
but he had more than the Duke to consider. There was Alzo. 

Alzo was the Duchess’s watchdog, a mastiff-like monster 
with shaggy red-gold hair. The dog hated Green with a vin- 
dictiveness that Green could only account for by supposing 
that the animal knew, perhaps from his body-odor, that he was 
not a native of this planet. Alzo rumbled a warning deep in his 
chest every time Green bent over the Duchess or made a too- 
sudden movement. Occasionally he rose to his four feet and 
nuzzled the man’s leg. When that happened Green could not 
keep from breaking out into a sweat, for the dog had twice 
bitten him, playfully, so to speak, and severely lacerated his 
calf. As if that weren’t bad enough, Green had to worry that 
the natives might notice that his scars healed abnormally fast, 
almost overnight. He’d been forced to wear bandages on his 
legs long after the new skin had come in. 

Even now, the nauseating canine was sniffing around Green’s 
quivering hide in the hope of putting the fear of the devil in 
him. At that moment the Earthman resolved that, come the 
headsman’s ax, rack, wheel, or other hellish tortures, he was 
going to kill that hound. It was just after he made that vow 
that the Duchess caused him to forget altogether the beast. 

“Dear,” said Zuni, interrupting the Duke in the midst of 
his conversation with a merchant-captain, “what is this I 
hear about two men who have fallen from the sky in a great 
ship of iron?” 

Green quivered, and he held his breath as he waited for the 
Duke’s reply. 

The Duke, a short, dark many-chinned man with white hair 
and very thick bristly salt-and-pepper eyebrows, frowned. 

“Men? Demons, ratherl Can men fly in an iron ship through 


the air? These two claimed to have come from the stars, and 
you know what that means. Remember Oixrotl’s prophecy: 
A demon will come, claiming to be an angel. No doubt about 
these two! Just to show you their subtlety, they claim to be 
neither demon nor angels, but men! Now, there’s devilish 
clever thinking. Confusing to anybody but the most clear- 
headed. I’m glad the King of Estorya wasn’t taken in.” 

Eagerly Zuni leaned forward, her large brown eyes bright, 
and her red-painted mouth open and wet. “Oh, has he burned 
them already? What a shame! I should think he’d at least tor- 
ture them for a while.” 

Miran, the merchant-captain, said, “Your pardon, gracious 
lady, but the King of Estorya has done no such thing. The 
Estoryan law demands that all suspected demons should be 
kept in prison for two years. Everybody knows that a devil 
can’t keep his human disguise more than two years. At the 
end of that time he reverts to his natural flesh and form, a 
hideous sight to behold, blasphemous, repulsive, soul-shaking.” 
Miran rolled his one good eye so that only the white showed 
and made the sign to ward off evil, the index finger held rigid- 
ly out from a clenched fist. Jugkaxtr, the household priest, 
dived under the table, where he crouched praying, secure in 
the knowledge that demons couldn't touch him while he knelt 
beneath the thrice-blessed wood. The Duke swallowed a whole 
glass of wine, apparently to calm his nerves, and belched. 

Miran wiped his face and said, “Of course, I wasn’t able 
to find out much, because we merchants are regarded with 
deep suspicion and scarcely dare to move outside the harbor 
or the marketplace. The Estoryans worship a female deity — 
ridiculous, isn’t it? — and eat fish. They hate us Tropatians 
because we worship Zaxropatr, Male of Males, and because 
they must depend on us to bring them fish. But they aren’t 
close-mouthed. They babble on and on to us, especially when 
one has given them wine for nothing.” 

Green finally released his breath in a sigh of relief. How 
glad he was that he had never told these people his true origin! 
So far as they knew he was merely one of the many slaves 
who came from a distant country in the North. 

Miran cleared his throat, adjusted his violet turban and 
yellow robes, pulled gently at the large gold ring that hung 


from his nose and said, “It took me a month to get back from 
Estorya, and that is very good time indeed, but then I am 
noted for my good luck, though I prefer to call it skill plus 
the favor given by the gods to the truly devout. I do not boast, 
O gods, but merely give you tribute because you have smiled 
upon my ventures and have found pleasing the scent of my 
many sacrifices in your nostrils!” 

Green lowered his eyelids to conceal the expression of dis- 
gust which he felt must be shining from them. At the same 
time, he saw Zuni’s shoe tapping impatiently. Inwardly he 
groaned, because he knew she would divert the conversation to 
something more interesting to her, to her clothes and the state 
of her stomach and/or complexion. And there would be noth- 
ing that anybody could do about it, because the custom was 
that the woman of the house regulated the subject of talk 
during breakfast. If only this had been lunch or dinner! Then 
the men would theoretically have had uncontested control. 

“These two demons were very tall, like your slave Green, 
here,” said Miran, “and they could not speak a word of Es- 
toryan. Or at least they claimed they couldn’t. When King 
Raussmig’s soldiers tried to capture them they brought from 
the folds of their strange clothes two pistols that only had to 
be pointed to send silent and awesome and sure death. Every- 
where men dropped dead. Panic overtook many, but there 
were brave soldiers who kept on charging, and eventually 
the magical instruments became exhausted. The demons were 
overpowered and put into the Tower of Grass Cats from 
which no man or demon has yet escaped. And there they will 
be until the Festival of the Sun’s Eye. Then they will be 
burnt . . .” 

From beneath the table rose the babble of the priest, Jug- 
kaxtr, as he blessed everyone in the house, down to the latest- 
born pup, and the fleas living thereof!, and cursed all those 
who were possessed by even the tiniest demon. The Duke, 
growing impatient at the noise, kicked under the table. Jug- 
kaxtr yelped and presently crawled out. He sat down and be- 
gan gnawing the meat from a bone, a well-done-thou-good- 
and-faithful-servant expression on his fat features. Green also 
felt like kicking him, just as he often felt like kicking every 
single human being on this planet. It was hard to remember 


that he must exercise compassion and understanding for them, 
and that his own remote ancestors had once been just as 
nauseatingly superstitious, cruel and bloody. 

There was a big difference between reading about such 
people and actually living among them. A history or a roman- 
tic novel could describe how unwashed and diseased and for- 
mula-bound primitives were, but only the too-too substantial 
stench and filth could make your gorge rise. 

Even as he stood there Zuni’s powerful perfume rose and 
clung in heavy festoons about him and slithered down his 
nostrils. It was a rare and expensive perfume, brought back 
by Miran from his voyages and given to her as a token of the 
merchant’s esteem. Used in small quantities it would have 
been quite effective to express feminine daintiness and to hint 
at delicate passion. But no, Zuni poured it like water over her, 
hoping to cover up the stale odor left by not taking a bath more 
than once a month. 

She looked so beautiful, he thought. And stank so terribly. 
At least she had at first. Now she looked less beautiful be- 
cause he knew how stupid she was, and didn’t stink quite so 
badly because his nostrils had become somewhat adjusted. 
They’d had to. 

“I intend to be back in Estorya by the time of the festival,” 
said Miran. “I’ve never seen the Eye of the Sun burn demons 
before. It’s a giant lens, you know. There will be just time 
enough to make a voyage there and get back before the rainy 
season. I expect to make even greater profits than the last 
time, because I’ve established some highly placed contacts. 
O gods, I do not boast but merely praise your favor to your 
humble worshiper, Miran the Merchant of the Clan of Effeny- 

“Please bring me some more of this perfume,” said the 
Duchess, “and I just love the diamond necklace you gave me.” 

“Diamonds, emeralds, rubies!” cried Miran, kissing his 
hand and rolling his eye ecstatically. “I tell you, the Estoryans 
are rich beyond our dreams! Jewels flow in their marketplaces 
like drops of water in a cataract! Ah, if only the Emperor 
could be induced to organize a great raiding fleet and storm 
its walls!” 

“He remembers too well what happened to his father’s fleet 


when he tried it,” growled the Duke. “The storm that destroyed 
his thirty ships was undoubtedly raised by the priests of the 
Goddess Hooda. I still think that the expedition would have 
succeeded, however, if the late Emperor had not ignored the 
vision that came to him the night before they set sail. It was 
the great god Axoputqui, and he said . . .” 

There was a lengthy conversation which did not hold Green’s 
attention. He was too busy trying to think of a plan whereby 
he could get to Estorya and to the demons’ iron vessel, which 
was obviously a spaceship. This was his only chance. Soon the 
rainy season would start and there would be no vessels leaving 
for at least three months. 

He could, of course, just walk away and hope to get to 
Estorya on foot. Thousands of miles through countless perils, 
and he had only a general idea of where the city was . . . no, 
Miran was his only hope. 

But how . . .? He didn’t think that stowing away would 
work. There was always a careful search for slaves who might 
try just that very plan. He looked at Miran, the short, fat, big- 
stomached, hook-nosed, one-eyed fellow with many chins and 
a large gold ring in his nose. The fellow was shrewd, shrewd, 
and he would not want to offend the Duchess by helping her 
official gigolo escape. Not, that is, unless Green could offer 
him something that was so valuable that he couldn’t afford not 
to take the risk. Miran boasted that he was a hard-headed 
businessman, but it was Green’s observation that there was 
always a large soft spot in that supposedly impenetrable crani- 
um: the Fissure of Cupiditas. 


The Duke rose, and everybody followed his example. Jug- 
kaxtr chanted the formula of dismissal, then sat down to fin- 
ish gnawing on the bone. The others filed out. Green walked 
in front of Zuni in order to warn her of any obstacles in her 
path and to take the brunt of any attempted assassination. As 
he did so he was seized by the ankle and tripped headlong. He 


did not fall hard because he was a quick man, in spite of his 
six-foot-two and hundred ninety pounds. But he rose red- 
faced because of the loud laughter and from repressed anger 
at Alzo, who had again repeated his trick of grabbing Green’s 
leg and upsetting him. He wanted to grab a spear from a near- 
by guard and spit Alzo. But that would be the end of Green. 
And whereas up to now there had been many times when he 
would not particularly have cared if he left this planet via the 
death route, he could not now make a false move. Not when 
escape was so nearl 

So he grinned sheepishly and again preceded the Duchess, 
while the others followed her out. When they reached the 
bottom of the broad stone staircase that led to the upper 
floors of the castle, Zuni told Green that he was to go to the 
marketplace and buy tomorrow’s food. As for her, she was 
going back to bed and sleep until noon. 

Inwardly Green groaned. How long could he keep up this 
pace? He was expected to stay up half the night with her, then 
attend to his official duties during the day. She slept enough to 
be refreshed by the time he visited her, but he never had a 
chance for any real rest. Even when he had his free hours in 
the afternoon he had to go to his house in the pens, and there 
he had to stay awake and attend to all his familial duties. And 
Amra, his slave-wife, and her six children demanded much 
from him. They were even more tyrannical than the Duchess, 
if that were possible. 

How long, O Lord, how long? The situation was intoler- 
able; even if he’d not heard of the spaceship he would have 
plotted to escape. Better a quick death while trying to get away 
than a slow, torturous one by exhaustion. 

He bowed good-by to the Duke and Duchess, then followed 
the violet turban and yellow robes of Miran through the court- 
yard, through the thick stone walls, over the bridge of the 
broad moat, and into the narrow winding streets of the city of 
Quotz. Here the merchant-captain got into his silver-and-jewel- 
decorated rickshaw. The two long-legged men between its 
shafts, sailors and clansmen from Miran’s vessel, the Bird of 
Fortune, began running through the crowd. The people made 
way for them, as two other sailors preceded them calling out 
Miran’s name and cracking whips in the air. 


Green, after looking to make certain that nobody from the 
castle was around to see him, ran until he was even with the 
rickshaw. Miran halted it and asked what he wanted. 

“Your pardon, Your Richness, but may a humble slave 
speak and not be reprimanded?” 

“I presume it is no idle thought you have in mind,” said 
Miran, looking Green over his one eye narrow in its fat- 

“It has to do with money.” 

“Ah, despite your foreign accent you speak with a pleasing 
voice; you are the golden trumpet of Mennirox, my patron 
god. Speak!” 

“First Your Richness must swear by Mennirox that you 
will under no circumstances divulge my proposal.” 

“There is wealth in this? For me?” 

“There is.” 

Miran glanced at his clansmen, standing there patiently, 
apparently oblivious of what was going on. He had power of 
life and death over them, but he didn’t trust them. He said, 
“Perhaps it would be better if I thought about this before 
making such a drastic oath. Could you meet me tonight at the 
Hour of the Wineglass at the House of Equality? And could 
you perhaps give me a slight hint of what you have in mind?” 

“The answer to both is yes. My proposal has to do with the 
dried fish that you carry as cargo to the Estoryans. There is 
another thing, too, but I may not even hint at it until I have 
your oath.” 

“Very well then. At the agreed hour. Fish, eh? I must be 
off. Time is money, you know. Get going boys, full sails.” 

Green hailed a passing rickshaw and seated himself com- 
fortably in it. As assistant majordomo he had plenty of money. 
Moreover, the Duke and Duchess would have been outraged 
if he had lowered their prestige by wa lkin g through the city’s 
streets. His vehicle made good time, too, because everybody 
recognized his livery: the scarlet and white tricorn hat and 
the white sleeveless shirt with the Duke’s heraldic arms on its 
chest — red and green concentric circles pierced by a black 

The street led always downward, for the city had been 


built on the foothills of the mountains. It wandered here and 
there and gave Green plenty of time to think. 

The trouble was, he thought, that if the two imprisoned men 
at Estorya were to die before he got to them he’d still be lost. 
He had no idea of how to pilot or navigate a spaceship. He’d 
been a passenger on a freighter when it had unaccountably 
blown up, and he’d been forced to leave the dying vessel in one 
of those automatic castaway emergency shells. The capsule 
had got him down to the surface of this planet and was, as far 
as he knew, still up in the hills where he’d left it. After wan- 
dering for a week and almost starving to death he’d been 
picked up by some peasants. They had turned him in to the 
soldiers of a nearby garrison, thinking he must be a runaway 
slave on whom they’d collect a reward. Taken to the capital 
city of Quotz, Green had almost been freed because there 
was no record of his being anybody’s property. But his tallness, 
blondness and inability to speak the local language had con- 
vinced his captors that he must have wandered down from 
some far northern country. Therefore if he wasn’t a slave 
he should be. 

Presto, changeo! He was. And he’d put in six months in a 
quarry and a year as a dock worker. Then the Duchess had 
chanced to see him on the streets as she rode by, and he’d been 
transferred to the castle. 

The streets were alive with the short, dark, stocky natives 
and the taller, lighter-complexioned slaves. The former wore 
their turbans of various colors, indicating their status and 
trade. The latter wore their three-cornered hats. Occasionally 
a priest in his high conical hat, hexagonal spectacles and goatee 
rode by. Wagons and rickshaws drawn by men or by big, 
powerful dogs went by. Merchants stood at the fronts of their 
shops and hawked their wares in loud voices. They sold cloth, 
grixtr nut, parchment, knives, swords, helmets, drugs, books — 
on magic, on religion, on travel — spices, perfumes, ink, rugs, 
highly sugared drinks, wine, beer, tonic, paintings, everything 
that went to make up their civilization. Butchers stood before 
open shops where dressed fowl, deer and dogs hung. Dealers 
in birds pointed out the virtues of their many-colored and 
multi-songed pets. 

For the thousandth time Green wondered at this strange 


planet where the only large animals were men, dogs, grass 
cats, a small deer and a very small equine. In fact, there was 
a paucity of any variety of animal life, except for the sur- 
prisingly large number of birds. It was this scarcity of horses 
and oxen, he supposed, that helped perpetuate slavery. Man 
and dog had to provide most of the labor. 

No doubt there was an explanation for all this, but it must 
be buried so deep in this people’s forgotten history that one 
would never know. Green, always curious, wished that he had 
time and means to explore. But he didn’t. He might as well 
resign himself to keeping a whole skin and to getting out of 
this mess as fast as he could. 

There was enough to do merely to make his way through 
the narrow and crowded streets. He had to display his baton 
often to clear a path, though when he approached the harbor 
area he had less trouble because the streets were much wider. 

Here great wagons drawn by gangs of slaves carried huge 
loads to or from the ships. The thoroughfares had to be broad, 
else the people would have been crushed between wagon and 
house. Here also were the so-called Pens, where the dock-slaves 
lived. Once the area had actually been an enclosure where 
men and women were locked up for the night. But the walls 
had been tom down and new houses built in the old Duke’s 
time. The closest Earthly parallel Green could think of for 
these edifices was a housing project. Small cottages, all exactly 
alike, set in military columns. 

For a moment he considered stopping off to see Amra, then 
decided against it. She’d get him tied up in an argument or 
something, and he’d spend too much time trying to soothe her, 
time that should be spent at the marketplace. He hated scenes, 
whereas Amra was a bom self -dramatist who reveled in them, 
almost wallowed, one might say. 

He averted his eyes from the Pens and looked at the other 
side of the street, where the walls of the great warehouses 
towered. Workmen swarmed around them, and cranes, op- 
erated by gangs pushing wheels like a ship’s capstan, raised 
or lowered big bundles. Here, he thought, was a business op- 
portunity for him. 

Introduce the steam engine. It’d be the greatest thing that 
ever hit this planet. Wood-burning automobiles could replace 


the rickshaws. Cranes could be run by donkey-engines. The 
ships themselves could have their wheels powered by steam. 
Or perhaps, he thought, rails could be laid across the Xurdi- 
mur, and locomotives would make the ships obsolete. 

No, that wouldn’t work. Iron rails cost too much. And the 
savages that roved over the grassy plains would tear them up 
and forge weapons from them. 

Besides, every time he suggested to the Duke a new and 
much more efficient method of doing something he ran dead 
into the brick wall of tradition and custom. Nothing new could 
be accepted unless the gods accepted it. The gods’ will was 
interpreted by the priests. The priests clutched the status quo 
as tightly as a hungry infant clutches its mother’s breast or an 
old man clings to his property. 

Green could make a fight against the theocracy, but he 
didn’t feel it was worth while to become a martyr. 

He heard a familiar voice behind him calling his name. 

“Alan! Alan!” 

He hunched his shoulders like a turtle withdrawing his head 
and thought desperately for a moment of trying to ignore the 
voice. But, though a woman’s, it was powerful and penetrat- 
ing, and everybody around him had already turned to see its 
owner. So he couldn’t pretend he hadn’t heard it. 


Reluctantly Green told his rickshaw boy to turn around. 
The boy, grinning, did so. Like everybody else along the har- 
bor front he knew Amra and was familiar with her relations 
with Green. She held their one-year-old daughter in her arms, 
cradled against her magnificent bosom. Behind her stood her 
other five children, her two sons by the Duke, her daughter by 
a visiting prince, her son by the captain of a Northerner ship, 
her daughter by a temple sculptor. Her rise and fall and slow 
rise again was told in the children around her; the tableau 
embodied an outline of the structure of the planet’s society. 



Her mother had been a Northerner slave; her father, a na- 
tive freeman, a wheelwright. When she was five years old they 
had died in a plague. She had been transferred to the Pens and 
raised by her aunt. When she was fifteen her beauty had at- 
tracted the Duke and he had installed her in the palace. There 
she gave birth to his two sons, now ten and eleven, who would 
soon be taken away from her and raised in the Duke’s house- 
hold as free and petted servants. 

The Duke had married the present Duchess several years 
after his liaison with Amra began and her jealousy had forced 
him to get rid of Amra. Back to the Pens she had gone; per- 
haps the Duke had not been too sad to see her go, for living 
with her was like living with a hurricane, and he liked peace 
and quiet too well. 

Then, in accordance with the custom, she had been recom- 
mended by the Duke to a visiting prince; the prince had over- 
stayed his leave from his native country because he hated to 
part with her, and the Duke had wanted to give her as a pres- 
ent. But here he’d overstepped his legal authority. Slaves had 
certain rights. A woman who had home a citizen a child could 
not be shipped away or sold unless she gave her permission. 
Amra didn’t choose to go, so the sorrowing prince had gone 
home, though not without leaving a memento of his visit be- 
hind him. 

The captain of a ship had purchased her, but here again 
the law came to her rescue. He could not take her out of the 
country, and she again refused to leave. By now she had pur- 
chased several businesses — slaves were allowed to hold prop- 
erty and even have slaves of their own — and she knew that her 
two boys by the Duke would be valuable later on, when 
they’d go to live with him. 

The temple sculptor had used her as his model for his great 
marble statue of the goddess of Fertility. Well he might, for 
she was a magnificent creature, a tall woman with long, richly 


auburn hair, a flawless skin, large russet brown eyes, a mouth 
as red and ripe as a plum, breasts with which neither child nor 
lover could find fault, a waist amazingly slender considering 
the rest of her curved body and her fruitfulness. Her long legs 
would have looked good on an Earthwoman and were even 
more outstanding among a population of club-ankled females. 

There was more to her than beauty. She radiated a some- 
thing that struck every male at first sight; to Green she some- 
times seemed to be a violent physical event, perhaps even a 
principle of Nature herself. 

There were times when Green felt proud because she had 
picked him as her mate, chosen him when he was a newly 
imported slave who could say only a few words in the highly 
irregular agglutinative tongue. But there were times when he 
felt that she was too much for him , and those times had been 
getting too frequent lately. Besides, he felt a pang whenever 
he saw their child, because he loved it and dreaded the mo- 
ment when he would have to leave it. As for deserting Amra, 
he wasn’t sure how that would make him feel. Undeniably, 
she did affect him, but then so did a blow in the teeth or wine 
in the blood. 

He got down out of the ricksha^, told the boy to wait, said, 
“Hello, honey,” and kissed her. He was glad she was a slave, 
because she didn’t wear a nose-ring. When he kissed the Duch- 
ess he was always annoyed by hers. She refused to take it off 
when with him because that would put her on his level, and 
he mustn’t ever forget he was a slave. It was perfectly moral 
for her to take a bondsman as a lover but not a freeman, and 
she was nothing if not moral. 

Amra’s return kiss was passionate, part of which was the 
vigor of asperity. “You’re not fooling me,” she said. “You 
meant to ride right by. Kiss the children! What’s the matter, 
are you getting tired of me? You told me you only accepted 
the Duchess’s offer because it meant advancement, and you 
were afraid that if you turned her down she’d find an excuse 
to kill you. Well, I believed you — half-believed you, anyway. 
But I won’t if you try sneaking by without seeing me. What’s 
the matter? Are you a man or not? Are you afraid to face a 
woman? Don’t shake your head. You’re a liar! Don’t forget 
to kiss Grizquetr; you know he’s an affectionate boy and 


worships you, and it’s absurd to say that in your country 
grown men don’t kiss boys that old. You’re not in your country 
— what a strange, frigid, loveless race must live there — and 
even if you were you might overlook their customs to show 
some tenderness to the boy. Come on back to our house and 
I’ll bring up some of that wonderful Chalousma wine that 
came in the other day out of the cellar ” 

“What was a ship doing in your cellar?” he said, and he 
whooped with laughter. “By all the gods, Amra, I know it’s 
been two days since I’ve seen you, but don’t try to crowd 
forty-eight hours’ conversation into ten minutes, especially 
your kind of conversation. And quit scolding me in front of 
the children. You know it’s bad for them. They might pick up 
your attitude of contempt for the head of the house.” 

“I? Contempt? Why, I worship the ground you walk onl I 
tell them continually what a fine man you are, though it’s 
rather hard to convince them when you do show up and they 
see the truth. Still . . .” 

There was only one way to handle her; that was to outtalk, 
outshout, outact her. It was hard going, especially when he 
felt so tired, and when she would not cooperate with him but 
would fight for precedence. The trouble was, she didn’t feel 
any respect for the man she could shut up, so it was absolutely 
necessary to dominate her. 

This he accomplished by giving her a big squeeze, causing 
the baby to cry because she was pushed in too tightly between 
the two of them. Then while Amra was trying to soothe the 
baby he began telling her what had happened at the palace. 

She was silent, except for a sharply pointed question inter- 
jected now and then, and she insisted upon hearing the de- 
tails of everything that had taken place — everything. He told 
her things that he would not have mentioned before children 
— two years ago. But the extremely frank and uninhibited 
society of the slaves had freed him of any such restraints. 

They went inside Amra’s house, through her offices, where 
six of her clerks and secretaries worked, through the living 
rooms proper, and on into the kitchen. 

She rang a bell and told Inzax, a pretty little blonde, to go 
into the cellar and bring up a quart of Chalousma. One of 
the clerks popped his head in the kitchen door and told her 


that a Mr. Sheshyarvrenti, purser of an Andoonanarga vessel, 
wanted to see her about the disposition of some rare birds 
that she had ordered seven months before. He would deal 
with no one but her. 

“Let him cool his heels for a while,” she said. The clerk 
gulped and his head disappeared. 

Green took Paxi, his daughter, and played with her while 
Amra poured their wine. 

“This can go on only so long,” she said. “I love you, and 
I’m not getting the attention I’m accustomed to. You should 
find some pretense to break off with the Duchess. I’m a vigor- 
ous woman who needs a lot of love. I want you here.” 

Green had nothing to lose by agreeing with her, since he 
planned to be leaving in a very short time. “You’re right,” he 
said. “I’ll tell her as soon as I think up a good excuse.” He fin- 
gered his neck at the place where a headsman’s ax would come 
down. “It had better be a good one, though.” 

Amra seemed to glow all over with happiness. She held her 
glass up and said, “Here’s to the Duchess. May demons carry 
her off.” 

“You’d better be careful, saying that before the children. 
You know that if they innocently repeated that to someone 
and it got back to the Duchess you’d be burned iit- ihe next 

“Not my children!” she scoffed. “They’re too clever. They 
take after their mother. They know when to keep their mouths 

Green gulped his wine and stood up. “I must go.” 

“You’ll come home tonight? Surely the Duchess will let you 
out one night a week?” 

“Not one single night. And I can’t come here this evening 
because I’m to meet Miran the Merchant at the House of 
Equality. Business, you know.” 

“Oh, I know! You’ll dillydally about the whole matter, and 
put off acting for one reason or another, and the first thing you 
know, years will go by, and ” 

“If this keeps up I’ll be dead in six months,” he said. “I’m 
tired! I have to get some sleep." 

She changed instantly from anger to sympathy. “Poor dear, 
why don’t you forget that appointment and sleep here until 


time to go back to the castle? I’ll send a messenger to Miran 
telling him you’re sick.” 

“No, this is something I just can’t pass by.” 

“What is it?” 

“It’s of such a nature that telling you, or anybody, would 
spoil it.” 

“And just what could that be?” she demanded, angry again. 
“It concerns some woman, I’ll bet!” 

“My problem is keeping away from you women, not getting 
into more trouble. No, it’s just that Miran has sworn me by all 
his gods to keep silent and of course I couldn’t think of break- 
ing a vow.” 

“I know your opinion of our gods,” she said. “Well, go 
along with you! But I warn you, I’m an impatient woman; I’ll 
give you a week to work on the Duchess, then I’m launching 
an attack myself.” 

“That won’t be necessary,” he said. He kissed her and the 
children and left. He congratulated himself on having delayed 
Amra that long. If he couldn’t carry out his scheme in a week 
he was lost, anyway. He’d have to walk away from the city 
and out onto the Xurdimur, even if packs of wild dogs and 
man-eating grass cats and cannibalistic men and God knew 
what else did roam the grassy plains. 


Every city and village of the Empire had its House of 
Equality, within whose walls distinctions of every type were 
abandoned. Green did not know the origin of the institution, 
but he recognized its value as a safety valve to blow off the 
extreme social pressure put on every class. Here the slave who 
did not dare open his mouth in the outside mundane world 
could curse his master to his face and go unpunished by the 
authorities. Of course, there was nothing to keep the master 
from retaliating in kind, for the slave also cast off his legal 
rights when he entered. Violence was not unknown here, 
though it was infrequent. Blood shed within these walls did 


not, theoretically, call for punishment. But any murderer 
would find that, though the police paid no attention to him, 
he’d have to deal with the slain one’s relatives. Many feuds 
had had their origin and end here. 

Green had excused himself after the evening meal, saying 
that he had to talk to Miran about getting some spices from 
Estorya. Also the merchant had mentioned that on his last 
trip he’d heard that a band of Estoryan hunters were going 
after the rare and beautiful getzlen bird and that he might find 
some for sale when he returned there. Zuni’s face lit up, be- 
cause she desired a getzlen bird even more than a chance to 
annoy her husband. Graciously she gave Green permission 
to leave. 

Inwardly exultant, though outwardly pulling a long face 
that was supposed to suggest his sadness at having to leave 
the Duchess, he backed out of the dining room. Not very 
gracefully, for Alzo chose that moment to refuse to get out of 
Green’s path. Green tumbled backward, sprawling over the 
huge mastiff, who snarled with anger and trembled with hypo- 
critical indignation and bared his fangs with the intention of 
tearing Green apart. The Earthman did not try to rise, be- 
cause he did not want to give Alzo an excuse for jumping him. 
Instead he bared his own teeth and snarled back. The hall 
roared with laughter and the Duke, holding his sides, tears 
running from his bulging eyes, rose and staggered over to 
where the two faced each other on all fours. He clutched Al- 
zo’s spike-studded collar and dragged him away, meanwhile 
choking out a command to Green to take off while the taking 
off was good. 

Green swallowed his anger, thanked the Duke and left. 
Swearing that he’d rip the hound apart some day with his 
bare hands, the Earthman left for the House of Equality. It 
took all the long rickshaw ride to the temple for him to calm 

The great central room with its three-story ceiling was full 
that night. Men in their long evening kilts and women in masks 
crowded around the gambling tables, the bars and the grudge- 
stages. There was a large crowd around the platform on which 
two dealers in wheat were slugging it out to work off resent- 
ment arising from business disputes. But by far the greatest 


number had gathered to watch a husband-and-wife match. 
His left hand had been tied to his side, and she had been 
armed with a club. Thus equalized, they’d been given the word 
to go to it. So far the man had had the worst of the match, as 
bloody patches on his head and bruises on his arm showed. 
If he could get the club away from her he had the right to do 
what he wanted to her. But if she could break his free arm 
she had him at her complete mercy. 

Green avoided the stage, because such barbarous doings 
made him sick. Looking for Miran, he finally found him roll- 
ing a pair of six-sided dice with another captain. This fellow 
wore the red turban and black robes of the Clan Axucan. He 
had just lost to Miran and was paying him sixty iquogr, a 
goodly sum even for a merchant-prince. 

Miran took Green’s arm, something he’d never have done 
outside the House, and led him off to a curtained booth where 
they could get as much privacy as they wished. He matched 
Green for drinks; Green lost, and Miran ordered a large pitcher 
of Chalousma. 

“Nothing but the best for yours truly — whenever someone 
else is paying,” Miran said jovially. “Now, I’m a great one 
for fun, but I’m here primarily for business. So — let’s have 
your proposal at once, if you please.” 

“First I must have your solemn oath that you will tell ab- 
solutely no one what you hear in this booth. Second, that if 
you reject my idea you do not then use it later on. Third, that 
if you do accept you will never attempt later on to kill me or 
get rid of me and thus reap the profits.” 

Miran’s face had been blank, but at the word “profits” it 
twisted into many folds and creases, all expressive of joy. 

He reached into the huge purse he carried slung over his 
shoulder and pulled out a little golden idol of the patron deity 
of the Clan Effenycan. Putting his right hand upon its ugly 
head, he lifted his left and said, “I swear by Zaceffucanquanr 
that I will obey your wishes in this matter. May he strike me 
with lice, leprosy, lecher’s disease and lightning if I should 
break this, my solemn vow.” 

Satisfied, Green said, “First I want you to arrange for me 
to be aboard your windroller when you leave for Estorya.” 

- 18 

Miran choked on his wine and coughed and sputtered until 
Green pounded his back. 

“I do not ask that you give me passage back. Now, here’s 
my idea. You plan to be taking a large cargo of dried fish be- 
cause the Estoryans’ religion requires that they eat them at 
every meal and because they use them in great quantities at 
their numerous festivals.” 

‘True, true. Do you know, I’ve never been able to figure 
out why they should worship a fish-goddess. They live over 
five thousand miles from the sea, and there’s no evidence that 
any of them have ever been to the sea. Yet, they demand salt- 
water fish, won’t use the fish from a nearby lake.” 

“There’re many mysteries about the Xurdimur. However, 
they needn’t concern us. Now, do you know that the Estor- 
yans’ Book of Gods places much more ritual-power in freshly 
killed and cooked fish than in smoked fish? However, they’ve 
always had to be content with the dried fish the windrollers 
brought them. What price would they not pay for living sea- 

Miran rubbed his palms together. ‘‘Indeed it does make one 
wonder ... 7” 

Green then outlined his idea. Miran sat stunned. Not at 
the audacity or originality of the plan, but because it was so 
obvious that he wondered why neither he nor anyone else had 
ever thought of it. He said so. 

Green drank his wine and said, ‘‘I suppose that people 
wondered the same when the first wheel or bow and arrow 
were invented. So obvious, yet no one thought of them until 

“Let me get this straight,” said Miran. “You want me to buy 
a caravan of wagons, build water-tight tanks into them and 
use them to transport ocean fish back to here? Then the wagon 
bodies, with their contents, will be lifted onto my windroller 
and fitted into specially prepared racks — or perhaps, holes — 
on the mid-deck? Also, you will show me how to analyze sea 
water so that its formula may be sold to the Estoryans, and 
they can thus keep the fish alive in their own tanks?” 

“That’s right.” 

“Hmmm.” Miran ran his fat, ring-studded finger over his 
hook nose and the square gold ornament hanging therefrom. 


His single eye glared pale-bluely at Green. The other was 
covered with a white patch to hide the emptiness left after a 
ball from a Ving musket had struck it. 

“It’s four weeks until the very last day on which I can 
set sail from here and still get to Estorya and back before 
the rains come. It’s just barely possible to have the tanks 
built, get them convoyed down to the seashore, get the fish in 
and bring them back. Meantime, I can be having the deck al- 
tered. If my men work day and night we can make it.” 

“Of course, this is a one-shot proposition. You can’t pos- 
sibly keep a monopoly on the idea, once the first trip is over. 
Too many people are bound to talk, and the other captains 
will hear of it.” 

“I know; don’t teach an Effenycan to suck eggs. But what 
if the fish should die?” 

Green shrugged and spread out his palms. “A possibility. 
You’re taking a tremendous gamble. But every voyage on the 
Xurdimur is, isn’t it? How many windrollers come back? Or 
how many can boast your list of forty successful trips?” 

“Not many,” said Miran. 

He slumped in his seat, brooding over his goblet of wine. 
His eye, sunk in ranges of fat, seemed to stare through Green. 
The Earthman pretended indifference, though his heart was 
pounding, and he controlled his breathing with diffculty. 

“You’re asking a great deal,” Miran finally said. “If the 
Duke were to find out that I’d agreed to help a valued slave 
escape, I’d be tortured in a most refined way, and the Clan 
Effenycan would be stripped of all its rights to sail windrollers 
and would probably be exiled to its native hills. Or else would 
have to take to piracy. And that, despite all the glamorous 
stories you hear, is not a very well-paying profession.” 

“You’d make a killing in Estorya.” 

‘True, but when I think of what the Duchess will do when 
she discovers you’ve fled the country! Ow, ow, owl” 

“There’s no reason why you should be connected with 
my disappearance. A dozen craft leave the harbor every day. 
Besides, for all she’ll know, I’ve gone the opposite way, over 
the hills and to the ocean. Or to the hills themselves, where 
many runaway slaves are.” 

“Yes, but I have to return to Tropat. And my clansmen, 

though notoriously tight-lipped when sober, are also, I must 
confess, notorious drunkards. Someone’d be sure to babble 
in the taverns.” 

“I’ll dye my hair black, cut it short, like a Tzatlam tribes- 
man, and sign on.” 

“You forget that you have to belong to my clan in order 
to be a crew member.” 

“Hmmm. Well, what about this adoption-by-blood routine?” 
“What about it? I can’t propose that unless you’ve done 
something spectacular and for the profit of the clan. Wait! 
Can you play any musical instrument?” 

Promptly, Green lied. “Oh, I am a wonderful harpist. When 
I play I can soothe a hungry grass cat into lying down at my 
feet and licking my toes with pure affection.” 

“Excellent! Though it would not be an affection so pure, 
since it is well known that the grass cat considers a man’s toes a 
great delicacy and always eats them first, even before the 
eyes. Listen well. Here is what you must do in four weeks’ 
time, for if all goes well, or all goes ill, we set sail on the 
Week of the Oak, the Day of the Sky, the Hour of the Lark, 
a most propitious time. . .” 


To Green, the next three weeks seemed to have shifted to 
low gear, they crept by so slowly. Yet they should have 
raced by quickly enough, so full of schemes and plots were 
they. He had to advise Miran on the many technical details in- 
volved in building tanks for the fish. He had to keep the 
Duchess happy, an increasingly difficult job because it was 
impossible to pretend a one-hundred-per-cent absorption in 
her while his mind desperately looked for flaws in his plans, 
found oh, so many, and then as anxiously sought ways of 
repairing them. Nevertheless he knew it was vital that he not 
displease or bore her. Prison would forever ruin his chances. 

Worst of all, Amra was getting suspicious. 

“You’re trying to conceal something from me,” she told 

Green. “You ought to know better. I can tell when a man is 
deceiving me. There’s something about the voice, the eyes, the 
way he makes love, though you’ve been doing very little of 
that. What are you plotting?” 

“I assure you it’s simply that I’m very tired,” he said 
sharply. “All I want is some peace and quiet, a little rest and 
a little privacy now and then.” 

“Don’t try to tell me that’s all!” 

She cocked her head to one side and squinted at him, 
managing somehow even in this grotesque attitude to look 
ravishingly beautiful. 

Suddenly she said, “You wouldn’t be thinking of running 
away, would you?” 

For a second he became pale. Damn the woman anyway! 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said, trying hard to keep his 
voice from cracking. “I’m too much aware of the penalties 
if I were caught. Besides, why should I want to run away? 
You are the most desirable woman I’ve ever known. (This 
was the truth.) Though you’re not the easiest one in the 
world to live with. (A master understatement.) I would have 
gotten no place without you. (True; but he couldn’t spend the 
rest of his life on this barbarous world.) And it is unthinkable 
that I would want to leave you.” (Inexpressible, yes, but 
not unthinkable. He couldn’t take her with him, for the 
simple reason that even if she would go she would never 
fit in his life on Earth. She’d be absolutely unhappy. More- 
over, she’d not go anyway, because she’d refuse to abandon 
her children and would try to take them along, thus wrecking 
all his escape plans. He might just as well hire a brass band 
and march behind it out of the city and onto the wind- 
roller in the light of high noon.) 

Nevertheless his conscience troubled him. If it was painful 
to leave Amra it was hell to leave Paxi, his daughter. For days 
he had considered taking her along with him, but eventually 
abandoned the idea. Trying to steal her from under Amra’s 
fiercely watchful gaze was almost impossible. Moreover, Paxi 
would miss her mother terribly, and he had no business ex- 
posing the baby to the risks of the voyage, which were many. 
Amra would be doubly hurt. Losing him would be bad 


enough, but to lose Paxi also . . .1 No, he couldn’t do that 
to her. 

The outcome of this conversation with her was that she 
apparently dropped her suspicions. At least she never spoke 
of them again. He was glad of that, for it was impossible 
to keep entirely hidden his connection with the mysterious 
actions of Miran the Merchant. The whole city knew some- 
thing was up. There was undoubtedly a lot of money tied up 
with this deal of the wagon caravan going to the seashore. 
But what did it all mean? Neither Miran nor Green would say 
a word, and while the Duke and Duchess might have used 
their authority to get the information from their slave, the 
Duke made no move. Miran had promised to let him in on a 
share of the profits, provided he gave the merchant a free 
hand and asked no questions. The Duke was quite content. 
He planned on spending the money to increase his collection 
of glass birds. He had ten large rooms of the castle glittering 
with his fantastic aviary: shining, silent and grotesquely 
beautiful, all products of the glass-blowers of the fabulous 
city of Metzva Moosh, far, far away across the grassy sea of 
the Xurdimur. 

Green was present when the Duke talked to Miran about 

“Now, Captain, you must understand just exactly what I 
do want,” warned the ruler, lifting a finger to emphasize the 
seriousness of his words. His eyes, usually deep-sunk in their 
fat, had widened to reveal large, brown and soulful orbs. The 
passion for his hobby shone forth. Nothing: good Chalousma 
wine, his wife, the torture of a heretic or runaway slave, 
could make him quiver and glitter with delight as much as 
the thought of the exquisitely wrought image of a Metzva 
Moosh bird. 

“I want two or three, but no more because I can’t afford 
more. All made by Izan Yushwa, the greatest of the glass- 
blowers. I’d particularly like any modeled after the bird-of- 
terror. . . .” 

“But when I was last in Estorya I heard that Izan Yushwa 
was dying,” said Miran. 

“Excellent, excellent!” cried the Duke. “That will make 
everything recently created by him even more valuable! If 


he is dead now it is probable that the Estoryans, who con- 
trol the export of the Mooshans, will be putting a high price 
on anything of his that comes their way. That means that 
bidding will be high during the festival and that you must 
outbid any prospective buyers. By all means do so. Pay any 
price, for 1 must have something created by him in his last 

The Duke, Green realized, was so eager because of the 
belief that a part of a dying artist’s soul entered into his 
latest creations when he died. These were called “soul-works” 
and brought ten times as much as anything else, even if the 
conception and execution were inferior to previous works. 

Sourly Miran said, “But you have given me no money to 
buy your birds.” 

“Of course not. You will lend me the sum, buy them your- 
self, and when you come back with them I will raise the money 
to repay you.” 

Miran didn’t seem too happy, but Green knew that the 
fat merchant was already planning to charge the Duke double 
the purchase price. As for Green, he liked to see a man in- 
terested in a hobby, but he was disgusted because taxes 
would now be raised in order to allow the Duke to add to 
his collection. 

The Duchess, bored as usual by her husband’s conversation, 
suddenly said, “Honey, let’s go hunting next weekend. I’ve 
been so restless lately, so unable to sleep nights. I think I’ve 
been cooped up too long in this dismal old place. My digestion 
has been so sluggish lately. I think I need the exercise and 
the fresh air.” And she went into vivid detail about certain 
aspects of her gastrointestinal troubles. The Earthman, who’d 
thought he was hardened to this people’s custom of dwelling 
on such matters, turned green. 

At the suggestion of a hunt the Duke didn’t exactly groan, 
but his eyes rolled upward in supplication to the gods. Until 
he had reached the age of thirty he had enjoyed a good 
hunt. But like most upper-class men of his culture, he rapidly 
put on flesh after thirty and became as sedentary as possible. 
The belief was that fat increased a man’s life span. Also, a 
big belly and double chin were signs of aristocratic blood and 
a full purse. Unfortunately, along with this came an inevitable 


decline in vigor, which, coupled with the December-May mar- 
riages that their society expected of them, had given birth 
to another institution: the slave male companion of the rich 
man’s young wife. 

It was toward Green that the Duke looked. “Why not 
let him conduct the hunt7” he suggested hopefully. “I’ve so 
much business to take care of.” 

“Like sitting on your fat cushion and contemplating your 
glass birds,” she said. “No I” 

“Very well,” he said, resignedly. “I’ve a slave in the work- 
pens who’s to be executed for striking a foreman. We’ll use 
him as the quarry. But I think we ought to give him two weeks 
to build up his wind and legs. Otherwise it would hardly be 
sporting, you know.” 

The Duchess frowned. “No. I’m getting bored; I can’t stand 
this inaction any longer.” 

She shot a glance at Green. He felt his stomach muscles 
contracting. Evidently she’d noticed his lukewarm interest in 
her. This hunt was partly to suggest to him that he’d be meeting 
a like fate unless he perked up and began to be more enter- 

It wasn’t that thought that made his heart sink. It was that 
next weekend was when Miran’s windroller raised sail and 
when he planned to be aboard it. Now, he’d be gone con- 
ducting the hunting party up in the hills. 

Green looked appealingly at Miran, but the merchant’s 
shoulders rose beneath the yellow robe as if to say, “What 
can I do?” 

He was right. Miran couldn’t suggest that he too go along 
on the hunt, and thus give Green a chance to slip aboard after- 
ward. The day on which the Bird of Fortune was- scheduled 
to leave the windbreak was absolutely the last date on which 
it could set sail. He couldn’t afford to take the chance of 
being caught in the rains in the middle of the vast plains. 



All the next day Green was too busy setting up the schedule 
of the hunting party to have time to be gloomy. But when 
night came he seemed to fold up inside himself. Could he 
pretend to be sick, too, and be left behind when the party 
set out? 

No, for they would at once assume that he had been pos- 
sessed by a demon and would pack him off to the Temple of 
Apoquoz, God of Healing. There he’d be under lock and 
key until he proved himself healthy. The terrible part about 
going to the Temple of Apoquoz was that it made death almost 
inevitable. If you didn’t die of your own disease you caught 
somebody else’s. 

Green wasn’t worried about catching any of the many 
diseases he’d be exposed to in the Temple. Like all men of 
terrestrial descent, he carried in his body a surgically im- 
planted protoplasmic entity which automatically analyzed any 
invading microscopic organisms and/or viruses and manu- 
factured antibodies to combat them. It lived in the space 
created by the removal of his appendix; when working to ful- 
fill its mission it demanded food and radiated a heat that 
assured its host of its heartening presence. An increased ap- 
petite plus a slight fever indicated that it was killing off the 
disease and that within several hours it would successfully 
repel any boarders. In the two years Green had been on the 
planet it had had to attack at least forty times; Green calculated 
that he would have been dead each and every time if it had 
not been for his symbiote. 

Knowing this didn’t help him. If he played sick he’d be 
locked up and couldn’t get on the ’roller. If he went on the 
hunting party he missed the boat, too. 

Suppose he were to disappear the night before the party, 
to hide on the windroller while the castle vainly looked for 

Not very likely. The first thing that would occur to Zuni 


would be to order the windbreak closed and all ’rollers 
searched for a possible stowaway. And if that happened 
Miran would be so delayed that it was unlikely he’d sail. Even 
if he, Green, hid in Miran’s cabin, where he would probably 
be safe, there would still be the inevitable and totally 
frustrating delay. 

Then why not disappear several days earlier, so that Miran 
could have time to reload his cargo? He’d see the merchant 
tomorrow. If Miran fell in with his plans, Green would dis- 
appear four nights from this very night, which would leave 
three days for the windroller to be emptied and reloaded. 
Fortunately the tanks wouldn’t have to be taken off, because 
any fool could see that the runaway wasn’t hiding at' the 
bottom among the fish. 

Much relieved that he at least had a way open, if a very 
perilous one. Green relaxed. He was sitting on a bench along 
a walk on top of one of the castle walls. The sky was blazingly 
beautiful with stars larger than any seen from Earth. The 
great moon and the small moon had risen. The larger had just 
cleared the eastern horizon and the lesser one was just past 
the zenith. Mingled moonwash and starwash softened the grim- 
ness and ugliness of the city below him and laved it in a 
flood of romance and glamour. Most of Quotz was unlighted, 
for the streets had no lamps and the windows were shut up 
tight against thieves, vampires and demons. Occasionally the 
torchflares of the servants of a drunken noble or rich man 
moved down the dark canyons between the towering over- 
hanging houses. 

Beyond the city was the amphitheater formed by the hills 
curving out to the north and the great brick wall built to 
continue the natural windbreak. A wide opening had been 
left so that the ’rollers, their sails furled, could be towed in or 
out. Past this the great plain suddenly began, as if the hand 
of some immense landscaper had pressed the hills flat and 
declared that from here on there would be no unevennesses. 

Westward lay the incredibly level stretch of the grassy 
ground of the Xurdimur. Ten thousand miles straight across, 
flat as a table top, broken only here and there by clumps of 
forests, ruins of cities, waterholes, the tents of the nomadic 
savages, herds of wild animals, packs of grass cats and dire 


dogs, and the mysterious and undoubtedly imaginary “roaming 
islands,” great clumps of rock and dirt that legend said slid of 
their own volition over the plains. How like this planet, he 
thought, that the greatest peril to navigation should be one 
that existed only in the heads of the inhabitants. 

The Xurdimur was a fabulous phenomenon, without paral- 
lel. On none of the many planets that Earthmen had discover- 
ed was there anything similar. How, he wondered, could the 
plain keep its smoothness, when there was always dirt running 
on to it from the eroding hills and mountains that ringed it? 
The rains, too, should have done much to wear it away un- 
evenly. Of course, the grass that grew all over it was long 
and had very tough roots. And if what he had been told was 
true, beneath the vegetation was one mass of inextricably 
tangled roots that held the soil together. 

There was another thing to consider, though: the winds 
that blew all the way across the Xurdimur and furnished 
propulsion for the wheeled sailing craft. To have winds you 
must have pressure differentials, which were usually caused 
by heat differentials. Although the Xurdimur was ringed by 
mountains there were no large eminences on it for ten thou- 
sand miles, nothing to replenish the currents of air. Or so it 
seemed to his limited knowledge of meteorology, though he 
did wonder how the trade winds that swept Earth’s seas 
managed to keep going for so many thousands of leagues, 
just on their original impetus. Or did they get boosts? He 
didn’t know. 

What he did know was that the Xurdimur was a thing that 
shouldn’t be. Yet, the very presence of men here was just 
as amazing, just as preposterous. Homo sapiens was scattered 
throughout the Galaxy. Everywhere that the space-traveling 
Earthmen had gone, they had found that about every fourth 
inhabitable planet was populated by men of their species. 
The proof lay not just in the outward physical resemblance 
of terrestrial and extra-terrestrial; it lay in their ability to 
breed. Earthman, Sirian, Albirean, Vegan, it made no differ- 
ence. Their men could have children by the women of other 

Naturally there had been many theories to account for this 
fact. All had as a common basis the assumption that Homo 


sapiens had sometime, somewhere, in the very remote past, 
originated on one planet and then had spread out over the 
Galaxy from it. And, somehow, space travel had been lost 
and each race had gone back to savagery, only to begin again 
the long hard struggle toward civilization and the re-discovery 
of spaceships. Why, no one knew. One could only guess. 

There was the problem of language. It might seem that if 
man had come from a common birthplace he would at least 
have kept a trace of his home language and that the linguists 
could break down the development of tongue and link one 
planet to another through it. But no. Every world had its 
own Tower of Babel, its own ten thousand languages. The 
terrestrial scientist might trace Russian and English and 
Swedish, and Lithuanian and Persian and Hindustani back 
to a proto-Indo-European, but he had never found on any 
other planet a language which he could say had also derived 
from the Aryan Ursprache. 

Green’s mind wandered to the two Earthmen now impris- 
oned in the city of Estorya. He hoped they weren’t being 
treated badly. They could be in horrible pain at this very 
moment, if the priests felt like subjecting them to a little 

Thinking of torture led him to sit up a little straighter and 
to stretch his arms and legs. In an hour he was supposed to 
meet the Duchess. To do that he had to go through the 
supposedly secret door in the wall of the turret at the northern 
end of the walk, up a stairway through a passage between 
the walls, and so to the Duchess’s apartments. There one of 
the maids-of-honor would usher him into Zuni’s presence and 
then would try to eavesdrop so she could report to the Duke 
later on. Zuni and Green weren’t supposed to know about 
this, but were to pretend that she was their trusted confidante. 

When the great bell of the Temple of the God of Time, 
Grooza, struck, Green would rise from his bench and go to 
what he now thought of as a wearisome chore. If that woman 
could only be interested in talking of something else besides 
her complexion or digestion, or idle palace gossip, it wouldn’t 
be so bad. But no, she chattered on and on, and Green would 
get increasingly sleepy, yet would not dare drop off for fear 
of irreparably offending her. And to do that . . . 



The lesser moon had touched the western horizon and the 
greater was nearing the zenith when Green awoke and jumped 
to his feet, swearing in sheer terror. He’d fallen asleep and 
kept Zuni waiting. 

“My God, what’ll she say?” he said aloud. “What’ll I tell 

“You needn’t tell me anything,” came her angry retort 
from very close by. He started, and whirled around and 
saw that she’d been standing behind him. She was wrapped in 
a robe, but her pale face gleamed from beneath the over- 
hanging hood and her mouth was opened. White teeth flashed 
as she began accusing him of not loving her, of being bored 
by her, of loving some other woman, probably a slave girl, 
a good-for-nothing, lazy, brainless, emptily pretty wench. If 
his situation hadn’t been so serious Green would have smiled 
at her self-portrayal. 

He tried to dam the flood, but to no avail. She screeched 
at him to shut up, and when he put his fingers to his lips and 
said, “Shhh!” she replied by raising her voice even more. 

“You know you’re not supposed to be out of your rooms 
after dark unless the Duke is along,” he said, taking her elbow 
and attempting to steer her down the walk toward the secret 
door. “If the guards see you there’ll be trouble, bad trouble. 
Let’s go.” 

Unfortunately the guards did see them. Torches appeared 
at the foot of the steps below the walk, and iron helmets and 
cuirasses gleamed. Green tried to urge her on faster, for there 
was still time to make it to the door. She jerked her arm loose 
and shouted, “Take your filthy hands off me, you Northern 
slave! The Duchess of Tropat doesn’t allow herself to be 
pushed around by a blond beast!” 

“Damn it,” he snarled, and he shoved her. “You stupid 
kizmaiaz! Get going! You won’t be tortured if they find us 


Zuni jerked away. Her face twisted and her mouth worked 
soundlessly. “Kizmaiaz!" she finally gasped. “Kizmaiaz your- 

Suddenly she began screaming. Before he could clamp his 
hand over her mouth, she dashed past him and toward the 
steps. It was then that he came out of his paralysis and ran, 
not after her, which he knew was useless, but toward the 
secret door. All was up. It was absolutely no use trying to 
explain to the guards. The situation had now entered a con- 
ventional phase. She would tell the guards that he had come 
into her room, through some unknown means — which would 
be “found out” later — and had dragged her out onto the 
walk, apparently with the intention of violating her. Why he 
should pick a public place when he already had the privacy 
of her rooms would not be asked. And the guards, though 
they would know what really had happened, would pretend to 
believe her and would furiously seize him and drag him off to 
the dungeons. The absurd thing about it was that within a 
few days the whole city, including Zuni herself, would believe 
that her story was true. By the time he’d been executed they 
would hate his guts, and the lot of all the slaves would be 
miserable for a while because they would share his blame. 

Green had no intention of being seized. Flight was an 
admission of guilt, but it made no difference now. 

He ran through the secret door, shut and bolted it and raced 
up the steps that led to her apartments. The guards would 
have to take the long way around; he had at least two min- 
utes before they could unlock the two doors of the ante- 
rooms to her quarters, explain to the guards just outside them 
what had happened and begin a search for him. As for him, 
he was running like a rabbit, but he was thinking like a fox. 
Having known that just such a situation might arise, he had 
long ago planned in detail several possible courses of action. 
Now, he chose the likeliest one and began acting efficiently — 
if not smoothly. 

The staircase was a narrow corkscrew with room for only 
one person at a time to go up. He ran up it so fast that he 
got dizzy with the ever-winding turns. He reeled and had 
trouble keeping from falling to his left when he did arrive at 
its top. Nevertheless he did not pause to catch breath or 


balance but pulled the lever that would make the door swing 
out. He burst through it. No one there, thank God. He stopped 
for a moment, listened to make sure nobody was in the next 
room, then pushed on a boss set in a pattern of bronze pro- 
tuberances, which was connected with the mechanism that 
operated the secret door. The section of wall swung back 
silently until it was flush with the rest, and quite indistinguish- 
able. He then twisted the knob so the door couldn’t be opened 
from the other side. Green took time to give fervent thanks 
to the builders of the castle, who had prepared this device for 
the owners to hide within in case of a successful invasion or 
revolt. If it had not been there he could not have escaped. 

Escaped? He’d only put off his inevitable capture. But he 
intended to run as long as he could and then fight until they 
were forced to kill him. 

The first thing to do was to find a weapon. As a matter 
of fact, he was so familiar with Zuni’s rooms that he knew 
exactly where he could get what he wanted. He walked through 
two large rooms, making his way easily even through the 
feeble duskish light that the few oil lamps and candles fur- 
nished. Hanging from the wall of the third room was a saber 
made of the best steel obtainable on this planet and fashioned 
by the greatest smiths, the swordwrights of faraway and al- 
most legendary Talamasko. The blade was a gift from Zuni’s 
father on the occasion of her wedding to the Duke. It was 
supposed to be given by Zuni to her eldest son when he came 
of weapon-carrying age. The hilt had a guard on which was 
inscribed in gold the motto: Sooner hell than dishonor. He 
fastened sword and scabbard to an iron ring on his broad 
leather belt, went to a luxurious dressing table, pulled open a 
drawer and took out a stiletto. This he stuck through his belt, 
also a huge flintlock pistol with a gold-and-ivory-chased butt. 
He loaded it with powder and an iron ball he found in a com- 
partment and put ammunition in a bag, which he also hung 
from his belt. Then, well armed, he walked out onto the bal- 
cony to take a quick view of the situation. 

Three stories below him was the walk which he had left a 
few minutes before. Many soldiers, and Zuni, were standing 
there, all looking up. As his face came into sight, visible in 
the moonlight and the up-reaching flares of their torches, a 


shout arose. Several of the musket men raised their long-bar- 
reled weapons, but Zuni cried out for them to hold their fire, 
she wanted him alive. Green’s skin prickled at the vindictive- 
ness in her voice and at the vision of what she was probably 
planning for him. He’d been forced to see too many tortures 
and public executions not to know exactly what she designed for 
him. Suddenly overcome with rage that she could be so 
treacherous and brutal, a rage perhaps flavored with self- 
disgust because he had made love to her, he aimed his pistol 
at her. There was a click as the ha mm er struck the flint, a 
spark, a whoosh as the powder burnt in the pan, a loud bang 
and a cloud of black smoke. When the fumes cleared away, 
he saw that everybody, including the Duchess, was running 
for cover. Naturally, he’d missed, for he’d had almost no 
practice with the pistols, being a slave. Even if he’d been well 
trained, he probably would not have struck his mark, so in- 
accurate were the weapons. 

While Green was reloading he heard a shout from above. 
Looking up, he saw the Duke’s round face, pale in the moon- 
light, hanging over the railing of the balcony above. He raised 
his empty pistol, and the Duke, squalling with fear, ran back 
into his quarters. Green laughed and said to him self that even 
if he was killed now he would at least have the satisfaction of 
knowing that he had shamed the Duke, who was always boast- 
ing about his bravery in battle. Of course, his action had also 
made it absolutely necessary for the Duke to have him killed 
at once, so that Green could not tell others that he’d put him 
to flight. 

He grinned crookedly. What would Jiappen when the sol- 
diers received the Duke's orders, directly contradicting the 
Duchess’s? The poor fellows would scarcely know what to do. 
The man’s commands would of course supersede the woman’s. 
But the woman would be furious and she would later on find 
some means of punishing those who did succeed in killing 

It was at that moment that he lost his smile and paled 
with fright. A loud deep-chested barking nearby. Not outside 
the apartment’s door, but inside I 

He cursed and whirled around just in time to see the large 
body launched toward his throat, the white fangs flashing and 


the green fire shining from its eyes as the moonlight struck 

Even in that moment of panic he realized that he’d for- 
gotten the small door set inside the larger one so that Alzo 
could have admittance at any time. And if the big dog could 
get through, then soldiers could also crawl through I 

Instinctively he thrust out the pistol and squeezed the trig- 
ger. It did not go off, for there was no powder in the pan. But 
the barrel did jam into the great mouth and deflect Alzo from 
his target, Green’s throat. Even so, Green was knocked back- 
ward by the impact, and he felt the sharp teeth clamping down 
on his wrist. Those jaws were capable of biting through his 
arm, and though he felt no pain, he was sickened by the 
thought that he’d see a bloody stump when Alzo danced away 
from him. However, his arm, though dripping blood from' 
large gashes, was not hurt badly. The dog had been deterred by 
the barrel shoved down his throat, choking him so that he 
could think of nothing for the moment but getting clear of it. 

The pistol clattered on the iron floor of the balcony. Alzo 
shook his head, unaware in his frenzy that he was rid of the 
weapon. Green leaped up from the sitting position into which 
Alzo’s charge had flung him against the railing. Snarling as 
viciously as the dog, he braced his feet against the juncture 
of the floor and railing and launched himself straight out. At 
the same time, the canine jumped. They met head on, Green’s 
skull driving into the open mouth and knocking the dog 
backward because his impetus was greater. Though the huge 
jaws bit down at his scalp, they snapped on air, and the animal 
fell to one side, growling. Green seized hold of the long tail, 
rolled away from the teeth now snapping at his ankles, and 
jerked at the tail so that the dog would swing away from him. 
He rose to one knee, pushed the dog away from him, though 
still keeping his frenzied grip with two hands, and jumped to 
his feet. Frantically, the animal twisted around and bit at the 
imprisoning hands. But he succeeded only in biting his own 
flank. Howling in anguish, he tried to lunge away. Green, 
making a supreme effort, raised the tail in the air. Naturally, 
the body came along with it. At the same time he half-turned 
from the animal, bent forward and, with a convulsive motion, 
using his bowed back as a lever, threw Alzo over his head. 



The terrible growling suddenly changed to a high-pitched 
howl of despair as Alzo flew over the railing and out into the 
air above the walk. Green, leaning over to watch him, did not 
feel sorry for him. He was exultant. He’d hated that dog and 
had dreamed of just such a moment. 

Alzo’s yelping was cut off as he struck the parapet beside 
the walk, bounced off, and then dropped from view into the 
depths beyond. Green’s strength had been greater than he’d 
suspected, for he had thought only to toss the one hundred 
and fifty pound beast over the railing. 

There was no time for savoring triumph. If the dog could 
get through that little door, so could soldiers. He ran out into 
the room, expecting that at least a dozen men had crawled 
in. But there was no one. Why? The only thing he could 
think of was that they were afraid, knowing that if he at once 
dispatched the dog, he could leisurely knock them over the 
head in their helpless on-all-fours position. 

The door shook beneath a mighty impact. They’d taken 
the wiser, if the less courageous, course of battering rams. 
Green loaded his pistol, spilling the powder at his first attempt 
to prime the pan because his hands shook so. He fired, and a 
large hole appeared in the wood. However, part of the ball 
also stuck out, for the door was planked thickly against just 
such weapons. 

The battering ceased and he heard a thud as the ram was 
dropped on the floor in hasty retreat. He smiled. As they were 
still operating under the Duchess’s instructions to take him 
alive — not yet countermanded by the Duke’s — they would 
not want to face pistol fire with only swords in hand. And in 
the first reflex to the shot they’d undoubtedly forgotten that 
a ball couldn’t penetrate the wood. 

“This is living!” said Green out loud. And he wondered 
that his voice shook as much as his legs did, and yet he felt 
a wild exultance shooting through his fear and knew that he 


was tasting both with a fine liking. Perhaps, he thought, he 
really liked this moment — even if his death was around the 
comer — because he’d been repressed so long and violence 
was a wonderful therapy for releasing his resentment and 
clamped-down-on fury. Whatever the reason, he knew that 
this was one of the high moments of his life and that if he 
survived he’d look back on it with pleasure and pride. And 
that was the strangest thing of all, since in his culture the 
young were taught to abhor violence. Luckily, they weren’t 
so conditioned against it that the very thought of it paralyzed 
them. No hard neural paths had been set up against the action 
of violence; it was just that, philosophically speaking, they 
loathed the concept. Fortunately, there was a philosophy of 
the body, too, a much older and deeper one. And while it 
was true that man could no more live without philosophy of 
the mind than he could without bread, it had no place in Green 
at present. The fiery breath that flooded his body now and 
made him so sensitive to what a fine thing it was to be alive 
while death was knocking at the door did not rise from any 
mental abstraction or profound meditation. 

Green rolled back the carpets that led from the room to 
the balcony, for he wanted a firm footing if it became necessary 
to make a running broad jump from the balcony in an effort to 
clear the walk below and drop into the moat. He’d have to 
have very good timing and do everything just right the first 
time, like a parachute jump, otherwise he’d end up with 
broken bones on the hard stones below. 

Not that he was going to make that leap unless he just had 
to. But he was leaving an avenue open if his other measures 
didn’t work. 

Again he ran to the bureau and drew out a large bag of 
gunpowder, weighing at least five pounds. In the open end of 
this he inserted a fuse, and tied the neck around it. While he 
was doing this, he heard shouts and cheers as the soldiers 
returned to the door, picked up their ram and hurled them- 
selves at the thick planking. He did not bother shooting again 
but instead lit the fuse with a candle. Then he walked to the 
large door, pushed out the small dog’s door and tossed the 
bag through it. He jumped back and ran, though there was 


little chance that the resultant explosion would harm the 

There was a silence as the soldiers were probably staring 
paralyzed at the smoking fuse. Then — a roar! The room shook, 
the door fell in; blasted off its hinges, and black smoke poured 
in. Green ran into the cloud, got down on all fours, scuttled 
through the doorway, cursed desperately when the hilt of his 
sword caught on the doorframe, tore loose and lunged through 
into the dense smoke that filled the anteroom. His groping 
hands felt the ram where it had dropped, and the wet warm 
face of a soldier who’d fallen. He coughed sharply from the 
biting fumes but went on until his head butted into the wall. 
Then he felt to his right, where he imagined the door was, 
came to it, passed through and on into the next room, also 
filled with a cloud. After he’d scuttled like a bug across its 
floor, he dared to open his eyes for a quick look. The smoke 
was thinner and was pouring out the door to the hallway, just 
in front of him. He saw no feet in the clearer area between 
the floor and the bottom of the clouds, so he rose and walked 
through the door. To his left, he knew, the hall led to a stair- 
way that was probably now jammed with soldiers. To his right 
would be another stairway that went up to the Duke’s apart- 
ments. That was the only way he could go. 

Luckily the smoke was still so dense in the corridor that 
those assembled on the left staircase couldn’t see him. They’d 
think he was in the Duchess’s rooms yet, and he hoped that 
when they did rush it and didn’t find him there the rolled- 
back carpets would give them the idea that he’d taken a run- 
ning broad jump from the balcony. In which case, they’d at 
once search the moat for him. And if they didn’t find him 
swimming there, as they wouldn’t, then they might presume 
he’d either drowned or else got to the shore and was now 
somewhere in the darkness of the city. 

He felt along the wall toward the staircase, his other hand 
gripping the stiletto. When his fingers ran across the arm of a 
man leaning against the wall, he withdrew them at once, bent 
his knees and in a crouching position ran in the general 
direction of the stairs. The smoke got even thinner here so 
that he saw the steps in time to avoid falling over them. Un- 
fortunately the Duke and another man were also there. Both 


saw his figure emerge into the torchlight from the clouds, but 
he had the advantage of knowing who he was, so that he had 
plunged the thin stiletto into the soldier’s throat before he 
could act. The Duke tried to leap past Green, but the Earth- 
man stuck a leg out and tripped him . Then he grabbed the 
ruler’s arm, twisted it behind his back, forced him up and 
on his knees and, using the arm as a cruel lever, raised him. 
He enjoyed hearing the Duke moan, though he’d never con- 
sciously taken pleasure in pain before. He had time to think 
that perhaps he liked this because of the torture the Duke 
had inflicted on his many helpless victims. Of course, he. 
Green, a highly civilized man, shouldn’t be feeling this way. 
But the rightness or wrongness of an emotion never kept any- 
body from experiencing it. 

“Up you go I” he said in a low, harsh voice, directing the 
Duke toward his apartments, manipulating the twisted arm 
as a steering column. By then the smoke had cleared away so 
that those at the other end of the corridor could see that 
something was wrong. A shout arose, followed by the slap of 
running feet on the stone flags. Green stopped, turned the 
Duke so he faced the approaching crowd and said to him, 
“Tell them that I will kill you unless they go away.” 

To emphasize his point he stuck the end of the stiletto into 
the Duke’s back and pressed hard enough to draw blood. 
The Duke quivered, then became rigid. Nevertheless he said, 
“I will not do so. That would be dishonor.” 

Green couldn’t help admiring such courage, even if it did 
make his predicament worse. He refused to kill the Duke just 
then because that would throw away the only trump card he 
held at that moment. So he stuck the stiletto in his teeth and, 
still holding with one hand to the Duke’s twisted arm, took the 
Duke’s pistol from his belt and fired over his shoulder. 

There was a whoosh of flame that burned the Duke’s ear 
and made him give a cry that was almost drowned out in the 
roar of the explosion. The nearest man threw up his hands, 
dropping his spear, and fell on his face. The others stopped. 
Doubtless, they were still operating under the Duchess’s orders 
not to kill Green, for the Duke must have arrived at the foot 
of the staircase just in time to witness the explosion of the 
gunpowder. And he was in no condition to issue contrary 


orders, being deafened and stunned by the report almost going 
off in his ear. 

Green shouted out, “Go back, or I will kill the Duke I It is 
his wish that you go back to the stairs and do not bother us 
until he sends word to you!” 

By the flickering light of the torches he could see the puz- 
zled expression on the soldiers’ faces. It was only then he rea- 
lized that in his extreme excitement he had shouted the orders 
in English. Hastily, he translated his demands, and was re- 
lieved to see them turn and retreat, though reluctantly. He 
then half-dragged the Duke up the steps to his apartments, 
where he barred the door and primed his pistol again. 

“So far, so good!” he said, in English. ‘The question is 
what now, little man?” 

The ruler’s rooms were even more luxurious than his wife’s, 
and were larger because they had to contain not only the 
Duke’s hundreds of hunting trophies, including human heads, 
but his collection of glass birds. Indeed, one might easily see 
where his heart really lay, for the heads had collected dust, 
whereas each and every glittering winged creature was im- 
maculate. It would have gone hard on a servant who’d neg- 
lected his cleaning duties in the great rooms dedicated to 
the collection. 

On seeing them Green smiled slightly. 

When you’re fighting for your life, hit a man where he’s 
softest. . . . 


It was a matter of two minutes to tie the Duke in a chair with 
several of the hunting whips hanging from the walls. 

Meanwhile the Duke came out of his daze. He began 
screaming every invective he knew — and he knew quite a lot — 
and promising every refined torture he could think of — and 
his knowledge was not poverty-stricken in that area either. 
Green waited until the Duke had given himself a bad case of 
laryngitis. Then he told him, in a firm but quiet voice, what he 


intended to do unless the Duke got him out of the castle. To 
emphasize his determination, he picked up a bludgeon stud- 
ded with iron spikes and swung it whistling through the air. 
The Duke’s eyes widened, and he paled. All of a sudden he 
changed from a defiant ruler challenging his captor to inflict 
his worst upon him to a shrunken, trembling old man. 

“And I will smash every last bird in these rooms,” said 
Green. “And I will open the chest that lies behind that pile 
of furs and take out of it your most precious treasure, the bird 
you have not even shown to the Emperor for fear he would 
get jealous and demand it as a gift from you, the bird you 
take out at rare intervals and over which you gloat all night.” 

“My wife told you!” gasped the Duke. “Oh, what an izzot 
she is!” 

“Granted,” said Green. “She babbled to me many secrets, 
being a featherbrained, idle, silly, stupid female, a fit consort 
for you. So I know where the unique exurotr statuette made 
by Izan Yushwa of Metzva Moosh is hidden, the glass bird 
that cost the whole dukedom a great tax and brought many 
bitter tears and hardships from your subjects. I will have no 
compunction about destroying it even if it is the only one ever 
made and if Izan Yushwa is nctw dead so that it can never 
be replaced.” 

The Duke’s eyes bulged in horror. 

“No, no!” he said in a quavering voice. “That would be un- 
thinkable, blasphemous, sacrilegious I Have you no sense of 
beauty, degenerate slave that you are, that you would smash 
forever that most beautiful of all things made by the hands 
of man?” 

“I would.” 

The Duke’s mouth drew down at the corners; suddenly, he 
was weeping. 

Green was embarrassed, for he- knew how great must be 
the emotion that could make this man, educated in a hard 
school, break down before an enemy. And he reflected upon 
what a strange thing a human being was. Here was a man 
who would literally allow his throat to be cut before he would 
display cowardice by bargaining for it. But to have his preci- 
ous collection of glass birds threatened . . .1 


Green shrugged. Why try to understand it7 The only thing 
to do was to use whatever came his way. 

“Very well, if you wish to save them you must do this.” And 
he detailed exactly the Duke’s moves and orders for the next 
ten minutes. He thereupon made him swear by the most holy 
oaths and upon his family name and by the honor of the 
founder of his family that he would not betray Green. 

“To make sure,” added the Earthman, “I shall take the 
exurotr with me. Once I know your word is good I’ll take 
steps to see that it is returned undamaged to you.” 

“Can I depend on that?” breathed the Duke hoarsely, roll- 
ing his big brown eyes. 

“Yes, I will contact Zingaro, Business Agent of the Thieves’ 
Guild, and he will return it to you, for a compensation, of 
course. But before we conclude this bargain you must swear 
that you will not harm Amra, my wife, nor any of her child- 
ren, nor confiscate her business but will behave toward her as 
if this had never happened.” 

The Duke swallowed hard, but he swore. Green was happy, 
because, though he was going to desert Amra, he was at least 
insuring her future. 

It was a long, long hour later that Green came out of his 
hiding place inside a large closet in the Duke’s apartment. 
Even though the Duke had sworn the holiest of oaths, he 
was as treacherous as any of the barbarians on this planet, and 
that was very treacherous indeed. Green had stood behind 
the door, sweating and listening to the loud and sometimes in- 
coherent conversation taking place between the Duke, his 
soldiers and the Duchess. The Duke was a good actor, for he 
convinced everybody that he had escaped from the mad slave 
Green, had seized a sword and forced him to make a running 
broad jump from the balcony railing. Of course, several guards- 
men had seen a large man-sized object hurtle from the bal- 
cony and fall with a loud splash into the moat below. There 
was no doubt that the slave must have broken his back when 
he struck the water or else he had been knocked out and then 
drowned. Whatever had happened, he had not come out. 

Green, his ear against the door, could not help smiling at 
this, despite his tension. He and the Duke had combined forces 
to .heave out a wooden statue of the god Zuzupatr, weighted 


with iron dishes tied to it so that it wouldn’t float. In the 
moonlight and the excitement, the idol must have looked 
enough like a falling man to deceive anybody. 

The only one seemingly not satisfied was Zuni. She raised 
every kind of hell she knew, behaved in a most undignified 
manner, screeched at her husband because his blood-thirsti- 
ness and lack of restraint had robbed her of the exquisite tor- 
tures she’d planned for the slave who had attempted to dis- 
honor her. The Duke, his face getting redder and redder, had 
suddenly bellowed out at her to quit acting like a condemned 
izzot and go at once to her apartments. To show that he meant 
what he said he ordered several soldiers to escort her. Zuni, 
however, was too stupid to see how perilous was her situation, 
how near the headsman’s ax. She raved on until the Duke 
gave a sign and two soldiers seized her elbows — at least, Green 
supposed they did, for she yelled at them to take their dirty 
hands off her — and propelled her out of the rooms. Even then 
it took some time before the Duke could close the doors on 
his last guest. 

The little ruler opened the door. In his hand he held a priest’s 
green robe, the sacerdotal hexagonal spectacles and a mask 
for the lower part of the face. The mask was customarily 
worn when a monk was on a mission for a high dignitary. Dur- 
ing the time the face was covered the monk was under a vow 
not to speak to anyone until he had reached the person for 
whom he had a message. Thus, Green would not be bothered 
with any embarrassing questions. 

He put on the robe, spectacles and mask, threw the hood 
over his head and placed the glass exurotr inside his shirt. 
His loaded pistol he kept up one capacious sleeve, holding it 
with the other hand. 

“Remember,” said the Duke anxiously as he opened the 
door and peered out to see if anybody was on the staircase, 
“remember that you must take every precaution against dam- 
aging the exurotr. Tell Zingaro that he must at once pack it in 
a chest filled with silks and sawdust so it won’t break. I will 
die a thousand deaths until it comes back once again to my 

And I, thought Green, will die a thousand deaths until I 


get safely out of your reach, out of the city and far away on a 

He promised again that he would keep his word as well as 
the Duke kept his, but that he would also take every measure 
to insure against treachery. Then he slipped out and closed the 
door. He was on his own until he boarded the Bird of Fortune. 


He had no trouble at all, except for making his way through 
the thick traffic. The explosions and shouting coming from the 
castle had aroused the whole town, so that everybody who 
could stand on his two feet, or could get somebody to carry 
him, was outside, milling around, asking questions, talking 
excitedly and in general trying to make as much chaos as pos- 
sible and to enjoy every bit of this excuse to take part in a 
general disturbance. Green strode through them, his head 
bent but his eyes probing ahead. He made fairly good prog- 
ress, only being held up temporarily a few times by the hu- 
man herd. 

Finally the flat plain of the windbreak lay before him, and 
the many masts of the great wheeled vessels were a forest 
around him. He was able to get to the Bird of Fortune un- 
challenged by any of the dozens of guardsmen that he passed. 
The ’roller herself lay snugly between two docks, where a huge 
gang of slaves had towed her. There was a gangway running 
up from one of the docks, and at both ends stood a sailor on 
guard, clad in the family colors of yellow, violet and crimson. 
They chewed grixtr nut, something like betel except that it 
stained both teeth and lips and gave them a green color. 

When Green stepped boldly upon the gangway the nearest 
guard looked doubtful and put his hand on his knife. Evident- 
ly he’d had no orders from Miran about a priest, but he knew 
what the mask indicated and that awed him enough so that 
he did not dare oppose the stranger. Nor was the second guard 
any quicker in making up his mind. Green slipped by him, 
entered the mid-decks and walked up the gangway to the fore- 


deck. He knocked quietly on the door of the captain’s cabin. 
A moment later it swung violently open; light flooded out, 
then was blocked off by Miran’s huge round bulk. 

Green stepped inside, pressing the captain hack, Miran 
reached for his dagger but stopped when he saw the intruder 
take off the mask and spectacles and throw back the hood. 

“Green 1 So you made itl I did not think it was possible.” 

“With me all things are possible,” replied Green modestly. 
He sat down at the table, or rather crumpled at it, and began 
repeating in a dry voice, halting with fatigue, the story of his 
escape. In a few minutes the narrow cabin rang with the 
captain’s laughter and his one eye twinkled and beamed as 
he slapped Green on the back and said that by all the gods 
here was a man he was proud to have aboard. 

“Have a drink of this Lespaxian wine, even better than 
Chalousma, and one I bring out only for honored guests,” said 
Miran, chortling. 

Green reached out a hand for the proffered glass, but his 
fingers never closed upon the stem, for his head sank onto 
the tabletop, and his snores were tremendous. 

It was three days later that a much-rested Green, his skin 
comfortably, even glowingly, tight with superb Lespaxian, sat 
at the table and waited for the word to come that he could 
finally leave the cabin. The first day of inactivity he’d slept 
and eaten and paced back and forth, anxious for news of 
what was going on in the city. At nightfall Miran had returned 
with the story that a furious search was organized in the city 
itself and the outlying hills. Of course, the Duke would in- 
sist that the ’rollers themselves be turned inside-out, and Mi- 
ran was cursing because that would mean a fatal delay. They 
could not wait for more than three more days. The fish tanks 
had been installed; the provisions were almost all in the hold; 
his roistering crewmen were being dragged out of the tav- 
erns and sobered up; two days after tomorrow the great ves- 
sel would have to be towed out of the windbreak and sails 
set for the perilous and long voyage. 

“I wouldn’t worry,” said Green. “You will find that tomor- 
row word will come from the hills that Green has been killed 
by a wild man of the Clan Axaquexcan, who will demand 


money before handing the dead slave’s head over. The Duke 
will accept this as true and will conveniently forget all about 
searching the ’rollers.” 

Miran rubbed his fat oily palms, while one pale eye glowed. 
He loved a good intrigue, the more elaborate the better. 

But the second day, even though what Green had predicted 
came true Miran became nervous and began to find the big 
blond man’s constant presence in his cabin irksome. He wanted 
to send him down into the hold, but Green firmly refused, re- 
minding the captain of his promise of haven within these very 
walls. He then calmly appropriated another bottle of the 
merchant’s Lespaxian, having located its hiding place, and 
drank it. Miran glowered, and his face twitched with repressed 
resentment, but he said nothing because of the custom that 
a guest could do what he pleased — within reasonable limits. 

The third day Miran was positively a tub of nerves, jittery, 
sweating, pacing back and forth. At last he left the cabin, only 
to begin pacing back and forth on the deck. Green could hear 
his footsteps for hours. The fourth day he was up at dawn and 
bellowing orders to his crewmen. A little later Green felt the 
big vessel move and heard the shouts of the foremen of the 
towing gangs and the chants of the slaves as they bent their 
backs hauling at the huge ropes attached to the 'roller. 

Slowly, oh, so slowly it seemed to Green, the craft creaked 
forward. He dared open a curtain to look out the square port- 
hole. Before him was the rearing side of another 'roller, and 
just for a second it seemed to him that it, not his vessel, was the 
one that was moving. Then he saw that the 'roller was advanc- 
ing at a pace of about fifteen or sixteen feet a minute. It would 
take them an hour to get past the towering brick walls of the 

He sweated out that hour and unconsciously fell into his 
childhood habit of biting his nails, expecting at any time to see 
the docks suddenly boil with soldiers running after the Bird 
of Fortune, shouting for it to stop because it had a runaway 
slave aboard. 

But no such thing occurred, and at last the tug gangs 
stopped and began coiling up their ropes, and Green quit 
chewing his nails. Miran shouted orders, the first mate repeated 
them, there was the slap of many feet on the decks above, the 


sound of many voices chanting. A sound as of a knife cutting 
cloth told that the sails had been released. Suddenly, the 
vessel rocked as the wind caught it and a vibration through 
the floors announced that the big axles were turning, the huge 
wheels with their tires of chacorotr, a kind of rubber, were 
revolving. The Bird was on the wing! 

Green opened the door slightly and took one last look 
at the city of Quotz. It was receding rapidly at the rate of 
fifteen miles an hour, and at this distance it looked like a toy 
city nestled in the lap of a hillock. Now that the danger from 
it was gone and the odors too far away to offend his nose it 
looked quite romantic and enticing. 

“And so we say farewell to exotic Quotz,” murmured Green 
in the approved travelog fashion. “So long, you son of an 

Then, though he was supposed to stay inside until Miran 
summoned him, he opened the door and stepped out. 

And almost fainted dead away. 

“Hello, honey,” said Amra. 

Green scarcely heard the children grouped around her also 
extend their greetings. He was just coming out of the dizziness 
and blackness that had threatened to overcome him. Perhaps it 
was the wine coupled with the shock. Perhaps, he was to think 
later, it was just that he was plain scared, scared as he’d not 
been in the castle. Ashamed, too, that Amra had found out 
his plans to desert her, and deeply ashamed because she loved 
him anyway and would not allow him to go without her. She 
had a tremendous pride that must have cost her great effort 
to choke down. 

Probably, he was to say to himself later on, it was sheer fear 
of her tongue that made him quail so. There was nothing that 
a man dreaded so much as a woman’s tonguelashing, especial- 
ly if he deserved it. Oh, especially! 

That was to come later. At the moment Amra was strangely 
quiet and meek. All she would say was that she had many 
business connections and that she knew well Zingaro, the 
Thieves’ Guild Business Agent. They had been childhood play- 
mates, and they’d helped each other in various shady transac- 
tions since. It was only natural that she should hear about 
the exurotr a slave hiding on the Bird of Fortune had given 


Zingaro to take back to the Duke. Cornering Zingaro, she 
had worked out of him enough information to be sure that 
Green had escaped to the ’roller. After all, Zingaro was under 
oath only to be reticent about certain details of the whole 
matter. From there she had taken the business into her own 
hands, had told Miran that she would inform the Duchess of 
Green’s whereabouts unless he permitted her and her family to 
go along on the voyage. 

“Here I am, your faithful and loyal wife,” she said, opening 
her arms in an expansive gesture. 

“I am overwhelmed with emotion,” replied Green, for once 
not exaggerating. 

“Then come and embrace me,” she cried, “and don’t stand 
there as if you’d seen the dead return from the gravel” 

“Before all these people?” he said, half-stunned, looking 
around at the grinning captain and first mate on the foredeck 
beside him and at the sailors and their families on the middeck 
below. The only ones not watching him were the goggled 
helmsmen, whose backs were turned because they were intent 
on wrestling with the great spoked wheel. 

“Why not?” she retorted. “You’ll be sleeping on the open 
deck with them, eating with them, breathing their breath, 
feeling their elbows at every turn, cursing, laughing, fighting, 
getting drunk, making love, all, all on the open deck. So 
why not embrace me? Or don’t you want me to be here?” 

“The thought never entered my head,” he said, stepping up 
to her and taking her in his arms. Or, if it had, he reflected, 
you can bet that I’d not dare say it. 

After all, it was good to feel her soft, warm, firmly curved 
body again and know that there was at least one person on 
this godforsaken planet that cared for him. What could have 
made him think for one minute that he could endure life with- 
out her? 

Well, he had. She just would not, could not, fit into his life 
if he ever got back on Earth. 



Miran coughed and said, “You two and your children and 
maid must get oS the deck and go amidships. That is where 
you will live. Never again must you set foot upon the steering 
deck unless you are summoned. I run. a tight ship and disci- 
pline is strictly adhered to.” 

Green followed Amra and the children down the steps to the 
deck below, noticing for the first time that Inzax, the pretty 
blond slave who took care of the children, was also aboard. 
You had to give credit to Amra. Wherever she went she trav- 
eled in style. 

He also thought that if this was a tight ship a loose one 
must be sheer chaos. Cats and dogs were running here and 
there, playing with the many infants, or else fighting with 
each other. Women sat and sewed or hung up washing or 
dried dishes or nursed babies. Hens clucked defiantly from 
behind the bars of their coops, scattered everywhere. On the 
port side there was even a pigpen holding about thirty of the 
tiny rabbit-eared porcines. 

Green followed Amra to a place where an awning had been 
stretched to make a roof. 

“Isn’t this nice?” she said. ”It has sides which we can pull 
down when it rains or when we want privacy, as I suppose we 
will, you being so funny in some ways.” 

“Oh, it’s delightful,” he hastened to assure her. “I see you 
even have some feather mattresses. And a cookstove.” 

He looked around. “But where are the fish tanks? I thought 
Miran was going to bolt them to the deck?” 

“Oh, no, he said that they were too valuable to expose to 
gunfire if we encountered pirates. So he had the deck cut open 
wide enough to lower the tanks inside the hold. Then the 
deck planking was replaced. Most of these people here would 
be sleeping below if it weren’t for the tanks. But there’s no 
room now.” 

Green decided to take a look around. He liked to have a 


thorough knowledge of his immediate environment so that 
he would know how to behave if an emergency arose. 

The windroller itself was about two hundred feet long. Its 
beam was about thirty-four feet. The hull was boat-shaped, 
and the narrow keel rested on fourteen axles. Twenty-eight 
enormous solid rubber-tired wheels turned at the ends of these 
axles. Thick ropes of the tough rubber-like substance were 
tied to the ends of the axles and to the tops of the hull itself. 
These were to hold the body steady and keep it from going 
over when the ’roller reeled under too strong a side wind and 
also to provide some resiliency when the ’roller was making 
a turn. Being aboard at such times was almost like being on 
a water-sailing ship. As the front pair of wheels — the steering 
wheels — turned and the longitudinal axis of the craft slowly 
changed direction, the body of the vessel, thrust by the shifting 
impact of the winds, also tilted. Not too far, never as far as a 
boat in similar case, but enough to give one an uneasy feeling. 
The cables on the opposing side would stretch to a degree and 
then would stop the sidewise motion of the keel and there 
would be a slight and slow roll to the other direction. Then a 
shorter and slower motion back again. It was enough to make 
a novice green. ’Roller sickness wasn’t uncommon at the be- 
ginning of a voyage or during a violent windstorm. Like its 
aqueous counterpart, it affected the sufferer so that he could 
only hang over the rail and wish he would die. 

The Bird of Fortune sported a curving bow and a high fore- 
deck. On this was fastened the many-spoked steering wheel. 
Two helmsmen always attended it, two men wearing hexagonal 
goggles and close-fitting leather helmets with high crests of 
curled wire. Behind them stood the captain and first mate, 
giving their attention alternately to the helmsmen and to the 
sailors on deck and aloft. The middeck was sunken, and the 
poopdeck, though raised, was not as high as the foredeck. 

The four masts were tall, but not as tall as those of a marine 
craft of similar size. High masts would have given the ’roller 
a tendency to capsize in a very strong wind, despite the weight 
of the axles and wheels. Therefore, the yardarms, reaching 
far out beyond the sides of the hull, were comparatively longer 
than a seaship’s. When the Bird carried a full weight of can- 
vas she looked, to a mariner’s eyes, squat and ungainly. More- 


over, yards had been fixed at right angles to the top of the 
hull and to the keel itself. Extra canvas was hung between 
these spars. The sight of all that sail sticking from between 
the wheels was enough to drive an old sailor to drink. 

Three masts were square-rigged. The aft mast was fore-and- 
aft rigged and was used to help the steering. There was no 

Altogether, it was a strange-looking craft. But once one 
was accustomed to it, one saw it was as beautiful as a ship of 
the sea. 

It was as formidable, too, for the Bird carried five large 
cannon on the middeck, six cannon on the second deck, a 
lighter swivel cannon on the steering deck, and two swivels 
on the poopdeck. 

Hung from davits were two long liferollers and a gig, all 
wheeled and with folding masts. If the Bird was wrecked it 
could be abandoned and all the crew could scoot off in the 
little rollers. 

Green wasn’t given much time for inspection. He became 
aware that a tall, lean sailor was regarding him intently. This 
fellow was dark-skinned but had the pale blue eyes of the 
Tropat hillsmen. He moved like a cat and wore a long, thin 
dagger, sharp as a claw. A nasty customer, thought Green. 

Presently, the nasty customer, seeing that Green was not 
going to notice him, walked in front of him so that he could 
not help being annoyed. At the same time, the babble around 
them died and everybody turned his head to stare. 

“Friend,” said Green, affably enough, “would you mind 
standing off to one side? You are blocking my view.” 

The fellow spat grixtr juice at Green’s feet. 

“No slave calls me friend. Yes, I am blocking your view, 
and I would mind getting out of the way.” 

“Evidently you object to my presence here,” said Green. 
“What is the matter? You don’t like my face?” 

“No, I don’t. And I don’t like to have as a crewmate a 
stinking slave.” 

“Speaking of odors,” said Green, “would you please stand 
to leeward of me? I’ve been through a lot lately and I’ve a 
delicate stomach.” 

“Silence, you son of an izzot!” roared the sailor, red-faced. 


“Have respect toward your betters, or I’ll strike you down and 
throw your body overboard.” 

“It takes two to make a murder, just as it takes two to make 
a bargain,” said Green in a loud voice, hoping that Miran 
would hear and be reminded of his promise of protection. 
But Miran shrugged his shoulders. He had done as much as 
he could. It was up to Green to make his way from now on. 

“It is true that I am a slave,” he said. “But I was not born 
one. Before being captured I was a freeman who knew liberty 
as none of you here know it. I came from a country where there 
were no masters because every man was his own master. 

“However, that is neither here nor there. The point is that 
I earned my freedom, that I fought like a warrior, not a slave, 
to get aboard the Bird. I wish to become a crew member, to 
become a blood-brother to the Clan Effenycan.” 

“Ah, indeed, and what can you contribute to the Clan that 
we should consider you worthy of sharing our blood?” 

What indeed? Green thought. The sweat broke out all over 
his body, though the morning wind was cool. 

At that moment he saw Miran speak to a sailor, who dis- 
appeared below decks and come out almost at once carrying a 
small harp in his hand. Oh, yes, now he remembered that he 
had told the captain what a wonderful harpist and singer he 
was, just the man that the Clan, eager for entertainment on 
the long voyages, would be likely to initiate. 

The unfortunate thing about that was that Green couldn’t 
play a note. 

Nevertheless he took the instrument from the sailor and 
gravely plucked its strings. He listened to the tones, frowned, 
adjusted the pegs, plucked them again, then handed the harp 

“Sorry, this is an inferior instrument,” he said haughtily. 
“Haven’t you anything better? I couldn’t think of degrading 
my art on such a cheap monstrosity.” 

“Gods above!” screamed a man standing nearby. ‘That is 
my haip you are talking about, the beloved harp of me, the 
bard Grazoot! Slave! Tone-deaf son of a laryngiteal mother! 
You will answer to me for that insult!” 

“No,” said the sailor, “this is my affair. I, Ezkr, will test 
this lubber’s fitness to join the Clan and be called brother.” 


“Over my dead body, brother!” 

“If you so wish it, brotherl” 

There were more angry words until presently Miran himself 
came down to the middeck. “By Mennirox, this is a disgrace!” 
he bellowed. “Two Effenycan quarreling before a slavel Come, 
make a decision quietly, or I will have you both thrown over- 
board. It is not too far to walk back to Quotz.” 

“We will cast dice to see who is the lucky man,” said the 
sailor, Ezkr. Grinning gap-toothedly, he reached into the 
pouch that hung from his belt, and pulled out the hexagonal 
ivories. A few minutes later he rose from his knees, having 
won four out of six throws. Green was disappointed more than 
he cared to show, for he had hoped that if he had to fight any- 
body it would be the pudgy, soft-looking harpist, not the tough 

Ezkr seemed to agree with Green that he could not have 
had worse luck. Chewing grixtr so rapidly that the green- 
flecked slaver ran down his long chin, Ezkr announced the 
terms that the blond slave would have to meet to prove his 


For a moment Green thought of leaving the ship and making 
his way on foot. 

Miran protested loudly. “This is ridiculous. Why can you 
not fight on deck like two ordinary men and be satisfied if 
one gives the other a flesh wound? That way I won’t stand the 
chance of losing you, Ezkr, one of my top topmen. If you 
should slip, who could take your place? This green hand 

Ezkr ignored his captain’s indignation, knowing that the 
code of the Clan protected him. He spit and said, “Anybody 
can wield a dagger. I want to see what kind of a man this 
Green is aloft. Walking a yard is the best way to see the color 
of his blood.” 

Yes, thought Green, his skin goose-pimpling. You’ll likely 


see my blood all right, splashed from here to the horizon when 
I fall! 

He asked Miran if he could withdraw a moment to his tent 
to pray to his gods for success. Miran nodded, and Green had 
Amra let down the sides of his shelter while he dropped to his 
knees. As soon as his privacy was assured, he handed her a long 
turban cloth and told her to go outside. She looked surprised, 
but when he told her what else she was to do, she smiled and 
kissed him. 

“You are a clever man, Alan. I was right to prefer you 
above any other man I might have had, and I could have had 
the best.” 

“Save the compliments for afterwards, when we’ll know 
if it works,” he said. “Hurry to the stove and do what I say. 
If anybody aSks you what you are up to, tell them that the 
stuff is necessary for my religious ritual. The gods,” he said 
as she ducked through the tent opening, “often come in handy. 
If they didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent them.” 

Amra paused and turned with an adoring face. “Ah, Alan, 
that is one of the many things for which I love you. You are 
always originating these witty sayings. How clever, and how 
dangerously blasphemous!” 

He shrugged, airily dismissing her compliment as if it were 

In a minute she returned with the turban wrapped around 
something limp but heavy. And within two minutes he stepped 
out from the tent, clad in a loincloth, leather belt, dagger and 
turban. Silently, he began climbing the rope ladder that rose 
to the tip of the nearest mast. Behind him came Ezkr. 

He did get some encouragement from Amra and the chil- 
dren. The Duke’s two boys cried out to him to cut the so-and- 
so’s throat, but if he was killed instead, they would avenge him 
when they grew up, if not sooner. Even the blond maid, Inzax, 
wept. He felt somewhat better, for it was good to know that 
some people cared for him. And the knowledge that he had 
to survive and make sure that these women and children didn’t 
come to grief was an added stimulus. 

Nevertheless he felt his momentarily gained courage oozing 
out of his sweat pores with every step upward. It was' so high 
up here, and so far down below. The craft itself became 


smaller and smaller and the people shrank to dolls, to upturned 
white faces that soon became less faces than blanks. The 
wind howled through the rigging and the mast, which had 
seemed so solid and steady when he was at its base, now be- 
came fragile and swaying. 

“It takes guts to be a sailor and a blood-brother of the Clan 
Effenycan,” said Ezkr. “Do you have them, Green?” 

“Yes, but if I get any sicker I’ll lose them, and you’ll be 
sorry, being below me,” muttered Green to himself. 

Finally, after what seemed endless clambering intq, the very 
clouds themselves, he arrived at the topmost yard. If he had 
thought the mast thin and flexible, the arm seemed like a 
toothpick poised over an abyss. And he was supposed to inch 
his way out to the whipping tip, then turn and come back 
fighting I 

“If you were not a coward you would stand up and walk 
out,” called Ezkr. 

“Sticks and stones will break my bones,” replied Green, 
but did not enlighten the puzzled sailor as to what he meant. 
Sitting down on the yard, he put his legs around it and began 
working his way out. Halfway to the arm he stopped and 
dared to look down. Once was enough. There was nothing but 
hard, grassy ground directly beneath him, seemingly a mile 
below, and the flat plain rushing by, and the huge wheels 
turning, turning. 

“Go on!” shouted Ezkr. 

Green turned his head and told him in indelicate language 
what he could do with the yard and the whole ship for that 
matter if he could manage it. 

Ezkr’s dark face reddened and he stood up and began 
walking out on the yard. Green’s eyes widened. This man 
could actually do it! 

But when he was a few feet away the sailor stopped and 
said, “No, you are trying to anger me so I will grapple with 
you here and perhaps be pushed off, since you have a firmer 
hold. No, I will not be such a fool. It is you who must try 
to get past me.” 

He turned and walked almost carelessly back to the mast, 
against which he leaned while he waited. 

“You have to go out to the very end,” he repeated. “Else 


you won’t pass the test even if you should get by me, which, 
of course, you won’t.” 

Green gritted his teeth and humped out to what he con- 
sidered close enough to the end, about two feet away. Any 
more might break the arm, as it was already bending far down. 
Or so it seemed to him. 

He then backed away, managed to turn, and to work back 
to within several feet of Ezkr. Here he paused to regain his 
breath, his strength and his courage. 

The sailor waited, one hand on a rope to steady himself, the 
other with its dagger held point-out at Green. 

The Earthman began unwinding his turban. 

“What are you doing?” said Ezkr, frowning with sudden 

Up to this point he had been master, because he knew what 
to expect. But if something unconventional happened . . . 

Green shrugged his shoulders and continued his very care- 
ful and slow unwrapping of his headpiece. 

“I don’t want to spill this,” he said. 

“Spill what?” 

“This!” shouted Green, and he whipped the turban upward 
towards Ezkr’s face. 

The turban itself was too far from the sailor to touch him. 
But the sand contained within it flew into his eyes before the 
wind could dissipate it. Amra, following her husband’s direc- 
tions, had collected a large amount from the fireplace’s sand 
pile to wrap in it, and though it had made his head feel heavy 
it had been worth it. 

Ezkr screamed and clutched at his eyes, releasing his dag- 
ger. At the same time, Green slid forward and rammed his fist 
into the man’s groin. Then, as Ezkr crumpled toward him, he 
caught him and eased him down. He followed his first blow 
with a chopping of the edge of his palm against the fellow’s 
neck. Ezkr quit screaming and passed out. Green rolled him 
over so that he lay on his stomach across the yard, supported 
on one side by the mast, with his legs, arms and head dangling. 
That was all he wanted to do for him. He had no intention of 
carrying him down. His only wish was to get to the deck, 
where he’d be safe. If Ezkr fell off now, too bad. 

Amra and Inzax were waiting at the foot of the shrouds 


when Green slowly climbed off. When he set foot on the deck, 
he thought his legs would give way, they were trembling so. 
Amra, noticing this, quickly put her arms around him as if to 
embrace the conquering hero but actually to help support him. 
“Thanks,” he muttered. “I need your strength, Amra.” 
“Anybody would who had done what you’ve done,” she 
said. “But my strength and all of me is at your disposal, Alan.” 
The children were looking at him with wide, admiring eyes 
and yelling, “That’s our daddy! Big blond Green! He’s quick 
as a grass cat, bites like a dire dog and’ll spit poison in your 
eye, like a flying snake!” 

Then, in the next moment, he was submerged under the men 
and women of the Clan, all anxious to congratulate him for 
his feat and to call him brother. The only ones who did not 
crowd around, trying to kiss him on the lips, were the officers 
of the Bird and the wife and children of the unfortunate sail- 
or, Ezkr. These were climbing up the rigging to fasten a rope 
around his waist and lower him. 

There was one other who remained aloof. That was the 
harpist, Grazoot. He was still sulking at the foot of the mast. 

Green decided that he’d better keep an eye on him, es- 
pecially at night when a knife could be slipped between a 
sleeper’s ribs and the body thrown overboard. He wished now 
that he’d not gone out of his way to insult the fellow’s instru- 
ment, but at the time that had seemed the only thing to do. 
Now he had better try to find some way to pacify him. 


Two weeks of very hard work and little sleep passed as Green 
learned the duties of a topsailman. He hated to go aloft, but 
he found that being up so high had its advantages. It gave him 
a chance to catch a few winks now and then. There were many 
crow’s nests where musketmen were stationed during a fight. 
Green would slip down into one of these and go to sleep at 
once. His foster son Grizquetr would stand watch for him, 
waking him if the foretop captain was coming through the 


rigging toward them. One afternoon Griz’s whistle startled 
Green out of a sound sleep. 

However, the captain stopped to give another sailor a lec- 
ture. Unable to go back to sleep. Green watched a herd of 
hoobers take to their hoofs at the approach of the Bird. These 
diminutive equines, beautiful with their orange bodies and 
black or white manes and fetlocks, sometimes formed immense 
herds that must have numbered in the hundreds of thousands. 
So thick were they that they looked like a bobbing sea of flash- 
ing heads and gleaming hoofs stretching clear to the horizon. 

To stretch to the horizon was something on this planet. The 
plain was the flattest Green had ever seen. He could scarcely 
believe that it ran unbroken for thousands of miles. But it did, 
and from his high point of view he could see in a vast circle. 
It was a beautiful sight. The grass itself was tall and thick- 
bodied, about two feet high and a sixteenth of an inch through. 
It was a bright green, brighter than earthly grass, almost 
shiny. During the rainy season, he was told, it would blossom 
with many tiny white and red flowers and give a pleasing per- 

Now, as Green watched, something happened that startled 

Abruptly, as if a monster mowing machine had come along 
the day before, the high grass ended and a lawn began. The 
new grass seemed to be only an inch high. And the lawn 
stretched at least a mile wide and as far ahead of the Bird as 
he could see. 

“What do you think of that?” he asked Amra’s son. 

Grizquetr shrugged. “I don’t know. The sailors say that it 
is done by the wuru, an animal the size of a ship, that only 
comes out at night. It eats grass, but it has the nasty temper 
of a dire dog, and will attack and smash a roller as if it were 
made of cardboard.” 

“Do you believe that?” Green said, watching him closely. 
Grizquetr was an intelligent lad in whom he hoped to plant 
a few seeds of skepticism. Perhaps some day those seeds might 
flower into the beginnings of science. 

“I do not know if the story is true or not. It is possible, but 
I’ve met nobody who has ever seen a wuru. And if it comes out 


only at night, where does it hide during the daytime? There 
is no hole in the ground large enough to conceal it.” 

“Very good,” said Green, smiling. Happily, Grizquetr smiled 
back. He worshiped his foster-father and nursed every bit of 
affection or compliment he got from him. 

“Keep that open mind,” said Green. “Neither believe nor 
disbelieve until you have solid evidence one way or another. 
And keep on remembering that new evidence may come up 
that will disprove the old and firmly established.” 

He smiled wryly. “I could use some of my own advice. I, 
for instance, had at one time absolutely refused to put any 
credence in what I have just seen with my own eyes. I put 
the story down as merely another idle story of those who sail 
the grassy seas. But I’m beginning to wonder if perhaps there 
couldn’t be an animal of some kind like the wuru." 

Both were silent for a while as they watched the animals race 
off like living orange rivers. Overhead, the birds wheeled in 
their hundreds of thousands of numbers. They, too, were 
beautiful, and even more colorful than the hoobers. Occasion- 
ally one lit in the rigging in a burst of dazzling feathers and 
a fury of melodious song or raucous screeches. 

“Look!” said the boy, eagerly pointing. “A grass cat! He’s 
been hiding, waiting to catch a hoober, and now he’s afraid 
he’ll be trampled to death by them.” 

Green’s gaze followed the other’s finger. He saw the long- 
legged, tiger-striped body loping desperately ahead of the thun- 
dering hoofs. It was completely closed in a pocket of the or- 
ange-maned beasts. Even as Green saw him, the sides of the 
pocket collapsed and the big cat disappeared from sight. If he 
remained alive he would do so through a miracle. 

Suddenly, Grizquetr cried, “Gods!” 

“What’s the matter?” cried Green. 

“On the horizon! A sail! It’s shaped like a Ving sail!” 
Others saw it too. The ship rang with shouts. A trumpeter 
blew battle stations; Miran’s voice rose above those of others 
as he bellowed through a megaphone; chaos dissolved into 
order and purpose as everybody went to his appointed place. 
The animals, children and pregnant women were marshaled 
into the hold. The gun crews began unloading barrels of pow- 
der with a crane from a hatch. Musketmen swarmed up the 


rigging. The entire topmast crew tumbled aloft and took their 
places. As Green was already in his, he had some leisure to 
observe the whole outlay of preparations for fight. He watched 
Amra hurriedly give her children a kiss, make sure they’d all 
gone below, then begin tearing strips of cloth for bandages 
and of wadding for the muskets. Once she looked up and waved 
at him before turning back to her task. He waved back and 
got a severe reprimand from the top-captain for breaking dis- 

“An extra watch for you. Green, after this is over!” 

The Earthman groaned and wished that the martinet would 
fall off and break every bone in his body. If he lost any more 
sleep . . .1 

The day wore on as the strange ship came closer. Another 
sail appeared behind it, and the crew grew even tenser. From 
all appearances, they were being pursued by Vings. Vings 
usually went in pairs. Then there was the shape of the sails, 
which were narrower at bottom than at top. And there was 
the long, low, streamlined hull and the overlarge wheels. 

Nevertheless discipline was somewhat relaxed for a time. 
The pets and children were allowed to come up, and meals 
were prepared by the women. Even when the swifter craft 
came close enough so that the color of the sails was seen to 
be scarlet, thereby confirming their suspicions of the strangers’ 
identity, battle stations weren’t recalled. Miran estimated that 
by the time the Vings were within cannon range night would 

“That is what they hate and what we love,” he said, pacing 
back and forth, fingering his nose ring and blinking nervously 
his one good eye. “It’ll be an hour before the big moon comes 
up. Not only that, it looks as though clouds may arise. See!” 
he cried to the first mate. “By Mennirox, is that not a wisp I 
detect in the northeast quarter?” 

“By all the gods, I believe it is!” said the mate, peering up- 
ward, seeing nothing but clear sky, but hoping that wishing 
would make the clouds come true. 

“Ah, Mennirox is good to his favorite worshiper!” said 
Miran. "He that loves thee shall profit. Book of the True Gods, 
Chapter Ten, Verse Eight. And Mennirox knows I love him 
with compound interest!” 


“Yes, that he does,” said the mate. “But what is your plan?” 
“As soon as the last glow of the sun disappears complete- 
ly from the horizon, so our silhouette won’t be revealed, we’ll 
swing and cut across their direct path of advance. We know 
that they’ll be traveling fairly close together, hoping to catch 
up with us and blast us with cross-fire. Well, we’ll give them 
a chance, but we’ll be gone before they can seize it. We’ll 
go right between them in the dark and fire on both. By the 
time they’re ready to reply we’ll have slipped on by. 

“And then,” he whooped, slapping his fat thigh, “they’ll 
probably cannonade each other to flinders, each thinking the 
other is usl Hoo, hoo, hoo!” 

“Mennirox had better be with us,” said the mate, paling. 
“It’ll take damn tight calculating and more than a bit of luck. 
We’ll be going by dead reckoning; not until we’re almost 
on them will we see them; and if we’re headed straight at 
them it’ll be too late to avoid a collision. Wharoom! Smashl 
Boom! We’re done for!” 

“That’s very true, but we’re done for if we don’t pull some 
trick like that. They’ll have caught us by dawn — they can 
outmaneuver us — and they’ve more combined gunfire. And 
though we’ll fight like grass cats we’ll go down, and you 
know what’ll happen then. The Vings don’t take prisoners un- 
less they’re at the end of a cruise and going into port.” 

“We should have accepted the Duke’s offer of a convoy of 
frigates,” muttered the mate. “Even one would have been 
enough to make the odds favor us.” 

“What? And lose half the profits of this voyage because we 
have to pay that robber Duke for the use of his warships? 
Have you lost your mind, mate?” 

“If I have I’m not the only one,” said the mate, turning 
into the wind so his words were lost. But the helmsmen heard 
him and reported the conversation later. In five minutes it 
was all over the ship. 

“Sure, he’s Greedyguts himself,” the crew said. “But then, 
we’re his relatives; we know the value of a penny. And isn't 
the fat old darling the daring one, though? Who but a captain 
of the Clan Effenycan would think of such a trick, and carry it 
through, too? And if he’s such a money-grabber, why, then; 
wouldn’t he be afraid to risk his vessel and cargo, not to 


mention his own precious blood, not to mention the even 
more precious blood of his relatives? No, Miran may be 
one-eyed and big-bellied and short of temper and wind, but 
he’s the man to hold down the foredeck. Brother, dip me 
another glass from that barrel and let’s toast again the cool 
courage and hot avariciousness of Captain Miran, Master 

Grazoot, the plump little harpist with the effeminate man- 
ners, took his harp and began singing the song the Clan 
loved most, the story of how they, a hill tribe, had come down 
to the plains a generation ago. And how there they had crept 
into the windbreak of the city of Chutlzaj and stolen a great 
windroller. And how they had ever since been men of the 
grassy seas, of the vast flat Xurdimur, and had sailed their 
stolen craft until it was destroyed in a great battle with a whole 
Krinkansprunger fleet. And how they had boarded a ship of 
the fleet and slain all the men and taken the women prisoners 
and sailed off with the ship right through the astounded fleet. 
And how they had taken the women as slaves and bred chil- 
dren and how the Effenycan blood was now half Krinkan- 
sprunger and that was where they got their blue eyes. And how 
the Clan now owned three big merchant ships — or had until 
two years ago when the other two rolled over the green hori- 
zon during the Month of the Oak and were never heard of 
again, but they’d come back some day with strange tales and 
a hold brimming with jewels. And how the Clan now sailed 
under that mighty, grasping, shrewd, lucky, religious man, 

Whatever else you could say about Grazoot, you could 
not deny that he had a fine baritone. Green, listening to his 
voice rise from the deck far below, could vision the rise and 
fall and rise again of these people and could appreciate why 
they were so arrogant and close-fisted and suspicious and 
brave. Indeed, if he had been bom on this planet, he could 
have wanted no finer, more romantic, gypsyish life than that 
of a sailor on a windroller. Provided, that is, that he could 
get plenty of sleep. 

The boom of a cannon disturbed his reverie. He looked 
up just in time to see the ball appear at the end of its arc 
and flash by him. It was not enough to scare him, but watching 


it plow into the ground about twenty feet away from the star- 
board steering wheel made him realize what damage one 
lucky shot could do. 

However, the Ving did not try again. He was a canny pirate 
who knew better than to throw away ammunition. Doubtless 
he was hoping to panic the merchantman into a frenzy of 
replies, powder-wasting and useless. Useless because the sun 
set just then and in a few minutes dusk was gone and darkness 
was all around them. Miran didn’t even bother to tell his men 
to hold their fire, since they wouldn’t have dreamed of touch- 
ing off the cannon until he gave the word. Instead he re- 
peated that no light should be shown and that the children 
must go below decks and must be kept quiet. No one was to 
make a noise. 

Then, casting one last glance at the positions of the pursuing 
craft, now rapidly dissolving into the night, he estimated the 
direction and strength of the wind. It was as it had been the 
day they set sail, an east wind dead astern, a good wind, 
pushing them along at eighteen miles an hour. 

Miran spoke in a soft voice to the first mate and the other 
officers, and they disappeared into the darkness shrouding 
the decks. They were giving prearranged orders, not by the 
customary bellowing through a megaphone but by low voices 
and touches. While they directed the crew, Miran stood with 
bare feet upon the foredeck. He held a half-crouching posture, 
and acted as if he were detecting the moves of the invisible 
sailors by the vibrations of their activities running through the 
wood of the decks and the spars and the masts and up to his 
feet. Miran was a fat nerve center that gathered in all the un- 
spoken messages scattered everywhere through the body of the 
Bird. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing, and if 
he hesitated or doubted because of the solid blackness around 
him, he gave the helmsmen no sign. His voice was firm. 

“Hold it steady.” 

". . . six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Nowl Swing her hard 
aport! Hold her, hold her!” 

To Green, high up on the topmost spar of the foremast, the 
turning about seemed an awful and unnatural deed. He could 
feel the hull, and with it his mast, of course, leaning over and 
over, until his senses told him that they must inevitably cap- 


size and send him crashing to the ground. But his senses lied, 
for though he seemed to fall forever, the time came when the 
journey back toward an upright position began. Then he 
was sure he would keep falling the other way, forever. 

Suddenly the sails fluttered. The vessel had come into the 
dead spot where there was no wind acting upon her canvas. 
Then, as her original impetus kept her going, the canvas 
boomed, seeming to his straining and oversensitive ears like 
cannon firing. This time the wind was catching her from what 
was for her a completely unnatural direction, from dead 
ahead. As a result, the sails filled out backwards, and their 
middle portions pressed against the masts. 

The ’roller came almost to a stop at once. The rigging 
groaned, and the masts themselves creaked loudly. Then they 
were bending backwards, while the sailors clinging to them 
in the darkness swore under their breaths and clamped down 
desperately on their handholds. 

“Gods!” said Green. “What is he doing?” 

“Quiet!” said a nearby man, the foretop-captain. “Miran 
is going to run her backwards.” 

Green gasped. But he made no further comment, trying 
to visualize what a strange sight the Bird of Fortune must be, 
and wishing it were daylight so he could see her. He sym- 
pathized with the helmsmen, who had to act against their en- 
tire training. It was a bad enough strain for them to try to 
sail blindly between two vessels. But to roll in reverse! They 
would have to put the helm to port when their reflexes cried 
out to them to put it to starboard, and vice versa! And no 
doubt Miran was aware of this and was warning them about 
it every few seconds. 

Green began to see what was happening. By now the Bird 
was rolling on her former course, but at a reduced rate be- 
cause the sails, bellying against their masts, would not offer 
as much surface to the wind. Therefore, the Ving vessels would 
by now be almost upon them, since the merchant ship had 
also lost much ground in her maneuver. In one or two min- 
utes the Ving would overtake them, would for a short while 
ride side by side with them, then would pass. 

Provided, of course, that Miran had estimated correctly 
his speed and rate of curve in turning. Otherwise they might 


even now expect a crash from the foredeck as the bow of 
the Ving caught them. 

"Oh, Booxotr,” prayed the foretop-captain. “Steer us right, 
else you lose your most devout worshiper, Miran.” 

Booxotr, Green recalled, was the God of Madness. 

Suddenly a hand gripped Green’s shoulder. It was the cap- 
tain of the foretop. 

“Don’t you see them I” he said softly. “They’re a blacker 
black than the night.” 

Green strained his eyes. Was it his imagination, or did he 
actually see something moving to his right? And another 
something, the hint of a hint, moving to his left? 

Whatever it was, ’roller or illusion, Miran must have seen 
it also. His voice shattered the night into a thousand pieces, 
and it was never again the same. 

“Cannoneers, fire I” 

Suddenly it was as if fireflies had been in hiding and had 
swarmed out at his command. All along the rails little lights 
appeared. Green was startled, even though he knew that the 
punks had been concealed beneath baskets so that the Vings 
would have no warning at all. 

Then the fireflies became long glowing worms, as the fuses 
took flame. 

There was a great roar, and the ship rocked. Iron demons 
belched flame. 

No sooner done than musketry broke out like a hot rash all 
over the ship. Green himself was part of this, blazing away 
at the vessel momentarily and dimly revealed by the light of 
the cannon fire. 

Darkness fell, but silence was gone. The men cheered; 
the decks trembled as the big wooden trains holding the can- 
non were run back to the ports from which they’d recoiled. 
As for the pirates, there was no answering fire. Not at first 
They must have been taken completely by surprise. 

Miran shouted again; again the big guns roared. 

Green, reloading his musket, found that he was bracing 
himself against a tendency to lean to the right. It was a few 
seconds before he could comprehend that the Bird was turning 
in that direction even though it was still going backwards. 

“Why is he doing that?” he shouted. 


“Fool, we can’t roll up the sails, stop, then set sail again. 
We’d be right where we started, sailing backwards. We have 
to turn while we have momentum, and how better to do that 
than reverse our maneuver? We’ll swing around until we’re 
headed in our original direction.” 

Green understood now. The Vings had passed them, there- 
fore they were in no danger of collision with them. And they 
couldn’t continue sailing backwards all night. The thing to 
do now would be to cut off at an angle so that at daybreak 
they’d be far from the pirates. 

At that moment cannonfire broke out to their left. The men 
aboard the Bird refrained from cheering only because of 
Miran’s threats to maroon them on the plain if they did any- 
thing to reveal their position. Nevertheless they all bared 
their teeth in silent laughter. Crafty old Miran had sprung 
his best trap. As he’d hoped, the two pirates, unaware that 
their attacker was now behind them, were shooting each 

“Let them bang away until they blow each other sky-high,” 
chortled the foretop-master. “Ah, Miran, what a tale we’ll 
have to tell in the taverns when we get to port.” 


For five minutes the intermittent flashes and bellows told 
that the Vings were still hammering away. Then the dark 
took hold again. Apparently the two had either recognized 
each other or else had decided that night fighting was a bad 
business and had steered away from each other. If this last 
was true, then they wouldn’t be much to fear, for one Ving 
wouldn’t attack the merchant by itself. 

The clouds broke, and the big and the little moons spread 
brightness everywhere. The pirate vessels were not in sight 
Nor were they seen when dawn broke. There was sail half a 
mile away, but this alarmed no one, except the untutored 
Green, because they recognized its shape as a sister. It was a 
merchant from the nearby city of Dem, of the Dukedom of 


Green was glad. They could sail with it. Safety in num- 

But no. Miran, after hailing it and finding that it also was 
going to Estorya, ordered every bit of canvas crowded on 
in an effort to race away from it 

“Is he crazy?” groaned Green to a sailor. 

“Like a zilmar," replied the sailor, referring to a foxlike 
animal that dwelt in the hills. “We must get to Estorya first if 
we would realize the full value of our cargo.” 

“Utter featherbrained folly,” snarled Green. “That ship 
doesn’t carry live fish. It can’t possibly compete with us.” 

“No, but we’ve other things to sell. Besides, it’s in Miran’s 
blood. If he saw another merchant pass him he’d come down 

Green threw his hands into the air and rolled his eyes in 
despair. Then he went back to work. There was much to do 
yet before he’d be allowed to sleep. 

The days and nights passed in the hard routine of his labor 
and the alarms and excursions that occasionally broke up the 
routine. Now and then the gig was launched, while the ’roller 
was in full speed, and it sped away under the power of its 
white fore-and-aft sail. It would be loaded with hunters, who 
would chase a hoober or deer or pygmy hog until it became 
exhausted; then would shoot the tired animal. They always 
brought back plenty of fresh meat. As for water, the catch- 
tanks on the decks were full because it rained at least half an 
hour at every noon and dusk. 

Green wondered at the regularity and promptness of these 
showers. The clouds would appear at twelve, it would rain for 
thirty to sixty minutes, then the sky would clear again. It was 
all very nice, but it was also very puzzling. 

Sometimes he was allowed to try target practice from the 
crow’s nest on the grass cats or the huge dire dogs. These 
latter ran in packs of half a dozen to twenty, and would often 
pace the Bird , howling and growling and sometimes running 
between the wheels. The sailors had quite a few tales of what 
they did to people who fell overboard or were wrecked on the 

Green shuddered and went back to his target practice. 
Though he ordinarily was against shooting animals just for 


the fun of it, he had no compunction about putting a ball 
through these wolfish-looking creatures. Ever since he’d been 
tormented by Alzo he’d hated dogs with a passion unbecoming 
to a civilized man. Of course, the fact that every canine on the 
planet instinctively loathed him because of his Earthman odor 
and did his best to sink his teeth into him, strengthened Green’s 
reaction. His legs were always healing from bites of the pets 

Often the ’roller would cruise through grass tall as a man’s 
knee. Then suddenly it would pass onto one of those tremen- 
dous lawns which seemed so well kept. Green had never ceased 
puzzling about them, but all he could get from anyone was 
one or more variations of the fable of the wuru, the herbivore 
bigger than two ships put together. 

One day they passed a wreck. Its burned hulk lay sideways 
on the ground, and here and there bones gleamed in the 
sun. Green expressed surprise that the masts, wheels and 
cannon were gone. He was told that those had been taken 
away by the savages who roamed the plains. 

“They use the wheels for their own craft, which are really 
nothing but large sailing platforms, land-rafts, you might say,” 
Amra told him. “On these they pitch their tents and their 
fireplaces, and from them they go forth to hunt. Some of 
them, however, disdain platforms and make their homes upon 
the ‘roaming islands.’ ” 

Green smiled but said nothing about that fairy story because 
disbelief excited these people, even Amra. 

“You’ll not see many wrecks,” she continued. “Not be- 
cause there aren’t many, for there are. Out of every ten ’rollers 
that leave for distant breaks, you can expect only six to get 

“That few? I’m amazed that with such a casualty ratio 
you could get anybody to risk his fortune and life.” 

“You forget that he who comes back is many times richer 
than when he sailed away. Look at Miran. He is taxed heavily 
at every port of call. He is taxed even more heavily in his 
home port. And he has to split with the Clansmen, though 
he does get a tenth of the profit of every cargo. Despite this, 
he is the richest man in Quotz, richer even than the Duke.” 

“Yes, but a man is a fool to take risks like these just for 


the remote chance of a fortune,” he protested. Then he 
stopped. After all, for what other reason had the Norsemen 
gone to America, and Columbus to the West Indies? Or why 
were so many hundreds of thousands of Earthmen daring the 
perils of interstellar space? What about himself, for instance? 
He’d left a stable and well-paying job on Earth as a specialist 
in raising sea crops to go to Pushover, a planet of Albireo. He’d 
expected to make his fortune there after two years of not-too- 
hard work and then retire. If only that accident hadn’t hap- 
pened ... I 

Of course, some of the pioneers weren’t driven by the 
profit motive. There was such a thing as love of adventure. 
Not a pure love, however. Even the most adventurous saw 
Eldorado gleaming somewhere in the wilds. Greed conquered 
more frontiers than curiosity. 

“You’d think the ruins of ’rollers would not be rare, even 
if these plains are vast,” said Amra, breaking in on his re- 
flections. “But the savages and pirates must salvage them as 
fast as they’re made.” 

“Your pardon, Mother, for interrupting,” said Grizquetr. 
“I heard a sailor, Zoob, remark on that very thing just the 
other day. He said that he once saw a ’roller that had been 
gutted, by pirates, he supposed. It was three days’ journey 
out of Yeshkayavach, the city of quartz in the far North. He 
said their ’roller was a week there, then returned on the same 
route. But when they came to where the wreck had been it 
was gone, every bit of it Even the bones of the dead sailors 
were missing.” 

“And he said that that reminded him of a story his father 
had told him when he was young. He said his father told 
him that his ship had once almost run into a huge uncharted 
hole in the plain. It was big, at least two hundred feet across, 
and earth had been piled up outside, like the crater of a 
volcano. At first that was what they thought it was, a volcano 
just beginning, even though they’d never heard of such a thing 
on the Xurdimur. Then they met a ship whose men had seen 
the hole made. It was caused, they said by a mighty falling 
star . . .” 

“A meteor,” commented Green. 

“. . . and it had dug that great hole. Well, that was as good 


an explanation as any. But the amazing thing was that when 
they came by that very spot a month later, the hole was gone. 
It was filled up and smoothed out, and grass was growing 
over it as if nothing had ever broken the skin of the earth. 
Now, how do you explain that. Foster-father?” 

“There are more things in heaven and earth than ever your 
philosophies dreamed of, Horatio,” Green nonchalantly re- 
plied, though he felt as though he wasn’t quoting exactly 

Amra and her son blinked. “Horatio?” 

“Never mind.” 

‘This sailor said that it was probably the work of the gods, 
who labor secretly at night that the plain may stay flat and 
clean of obstacles so their true worshipers may sail upon it 
and profit thereby.” 

“Will the wonders of rationalization never cease?” said 

He rose from his pile of furs. "Almost time for my watch.” 
He kissed Amra, the maid, the children, and stepped out from 
the tent. He walked rather carelessly across the deck absorbed 
in wondering what the effect would be upon Amra if he told 
her his true origin. Could she comprehend the concept of 
other worlds existing by the hundreds of thousands, yet so 
distant from each other that a man could walk steadily for 
a million years and still not get halfway from Earth to this 
planet of hers? Or would she react automatically, as most of 
her fellows would do, and think that he must surely be a 
demon in human disguise? It would be more natural for her 
to prefer the latter idea. If you looked at it objectively, it was 
more plausible, given her lack of scientific knowledge. Much 
more believable, too. 

Somebody bumped him. Jarred out of his reverie, he auto- 
matically apologized in English. 

“Don’t curse at me in your foreign tongue I” snarled Gra- 
zoot, the plump little harpist. 

Ezkr was standing behind Grazoot. He spoke out of the side 
of his mouth, urging the bard on. “He thinks he can walk 
all over you, Grazoot, because he insulted your harp once 
and you let him get away with it.” 

Grazoot puffed out his cheeks, reddened in the face and 


glared. “It is only because Miran has forbidden duels that I 
have not plunged my dagger into this son of an izzot!” 

Green looked from one to the other. Obviously this scene 
was prearranged with no good end for him in view. 

“Stand aside,” he said haughtily. “You are interfering with 
the discipline of the ’roller. Miran will not like that.” 

“Indeed!” said Grazoot. “Do you think Miran cares at all 
about what happens to you? You’re a lousy sailor and it hurts 
me to have to call you brother. In fact, I spit every time I 
say it to you, brother!” 

Grazoot did just that. Green, who was downwind, felt the 
fine mist wet his legs. He began to get angry. 

“Out of my way or I’ll report you to the first mate,” he 
said firmly and walked by them. They gave way, but he had 
an uneasy feeling in the small of his back, as if a knife would 
plunge into it. Of course, they shouldn’t be so foolish, be- 
cause they would be hamstrung and then dropped off the ’roller 
for the crime of cowardice. But these people were so hot- 
headed they were just as likely as not to stab him in a moment 
of fury. 

Once on the rope ladder that ran up to the crow’s nest, he 
began to lose the prickly feeling in his back. At that moment 
Grazoot called out, “Oh, Green, I had a vision last night, a 
true vision, because my patron god sent it, and he himself ap- 
peared in it. He announced that he would snuff up his nostrils 
the welcome scent of your blood, spilled all over the deck 
from your fall!” 

Green paused with one foot on the rail. "You tell your god 
to stay away from me, or I’ll punch him in the nose!” he 
called back. 

There was a gasp from the many people who’d gathered 
around to listen. “Sacrilege!” yelled Grazoot. “Blasphemy!” 
He turned to those around him. “Did you hear that?” 

“Yes,” said Ezkr, stepping out from the crowd. “I heard 
him and I am shocked. Men have burned for less.” 

“Oh, my patron god, Tonuscala, punish this pride-swollen 
manl Make your dreams come true. Cast him headlong from 
the mast and dash him to the deck and break every bone in 
his body so that men may learn that one does not mock the 
true gods.” 


"Tahkhai," murmured the crowd. “Amen." 

Green smiled grimly. He had fallen into their trap and now 
must be on guard. Plainly, one or both of them would be 
aloft tonight during the dark hour after sunset, and they’d 
be content with nothing less than pitching him out over the 
deck. His death would be considered to have come from the 
hands of an outraged god. And if Amra should accuse Ezkr 
and Grazoot she’d get little justice. As for Miran, the fellow 
would probably heave a sigh of relief, because he’d be rid of 
a troublesome fellow who could carry damaging stories of a 
certain conspiracy to the Duke of Tropat. 

He climbed up to the crow’s nest, and settled gloomily to 
staring off at the horizon. Just before sunset Grizquetr came 
up with a bottle of wine and food in a covered basket. 

Between bites Green told the boy of his suspicions. 

“Mother has already guessed as much,” said the lad. “She 
is a very clever woman indeed, my mother. She has put a 
curse upon the two if you should come to harm.” 

“Very clever. That will do a great deal of good. Thank her 
for her splendid work while you’re picking up my pieces from 
the deck, will you?” 

“To be sure,” replied Grizquetr, trying hard to keep his 
sober face from breaking into a grin. “And Mother also sent 
you this.” 

He rolled the kerchief all the way off the top of the basket 
Green’s eyes widened. 



“Yes. Mother says that you are to release it when you hear 
the bos’n’s whistle from the deck.” 

“Now, why in the world would I do that? Won’t I get into 
tremendous trouble by doing that? I’ll be run through the 
gauntlet a dozen times for that. No sir, not me. I’ve seen 
those poor fellows after the whips were through with them.” 
“Mother said for me to tell you that nobody will be able 
to prove who sent up the flare.” 


“Perhaps. It sounds reasonable. But why should I do it?” 
“It will light up the whole ship for a minute, and everybody 
will be able to see that Ezkr and Grazoot are in the rigging. 
The whole ship will be in an uproar. Of course, when it is 
discovered that somebody has stolen two flares from the store- 
room, and when a search is conducted, and one flare is found 
hidden in Ezkr’s trunk, then . . . well, you see . . .” 

“Oh, beamish boy!” chortled Green. “Calloo, callayl Go tell 
your mother she’s the most marvelous woman on this planet 
— though that’s really not much of a compliment, now I 
think of it. Oh, wait a minute 1 About this bos’n’s whistle. 
Now, why should he be warning me to send up a flare?” 

“He won’t. Mother will be blowing it. She’ll be waiting for 
a signal from me or Azaxu,” Grizquetr said, referring to his 
younger brother. “We’ll be watching Ezkr and Grazoot, and 
when they start to climb aloft we’ll notify her. She’ll wait 
until she thinks they’re about halfway up, then she’ll whistle.” 
"That woman has saved my life at least half a dozen times. 
What would I do without her?” 

“That’s what Mother said. She said that she doesn’t know 
why she went after you when you tried to run away from her 
— from us — because she has great pride. And she doesn’t have 
to chase a man to get one; princes have begged her to come 
live with them. But she did because she loves you, and a good 
thing, too. Otherwise your stupidity would have killed you ten 
times over by now.” 

“Oh, she did, did she? Well, hah, hum. Yes, well . . .1” 
Thoroughly ashamed of himself, yet angry at Amra for 
her estimate of him, Green miserably watched Grizquetr climb 
down the ratlines. 

During the next half-hour, time seemed to coagulate, to 
thicken and harden around him so that he felt as if he were 
encased in it. The clouds that always came up after sunset 
formed, and a light drizzle began. It would last for about an 
hour, he knew, then the clouds would disappear so swiftly 
that they would give the impression of being yanked away like 
a tablecloth by some magician over the horizon. But he’d cram 
a highly nervous lifetime into those minutes, wondering if 
perhaps there wouldn’t be some unforeseen frustration of 
Amra’s schedule. 


The first webby drops struck his face, and he wondered if 
perhaps that wouldn’t be what the two would wait for. They’d 
probably taken the first step up the rigging, but he mustn’t 
expect her whistle for some time yet. If they were clever they 
wouldn’t climb up directly beneath him, but would go aft, 
ascend to the top, then climb over to him. It was true that 
they’d have to pass others who, like Green, were also stationed 
aloft on watch. But Ezkr and Grazoot knew the locations of 
these. So dark was it they could pass within touching distance 
and not be seen or heard. The wind in the rigging, the creak 
of masts, the rumble of the great wheels would drown out 
any slight noise they might make. 

The ’roller did not stop sailing just because the helmsmen 
could not see. The Bird followed a well-charted route; every 
permanent obstacle along here had been memorized by helms- 
men and officers alike. If anything formidable was expected 
in their path during the dark period, a course would be set 
to avoid it. The officers on duty would advise the helmsmen 
on their steering by means of an ingenious dial on a notched 
plate. His sensitive fingers, following its flickerings back and 
forth, and comparing them with the directional notches, would 
tell him how close to the course they were keeping. The dial 
itself was fixed to the needle of a compass beneath it. 

Green hunched his shoulders beneath his coat and walked 
around the walls of his nest. He strained his eyes to make 
out something in the blackness that wrapped him around like 
a shroud. There was nothing, nothing at all. . . . No, wait! What 
was that? A vague outline of a white face? 

He stared hard until it disappeared, then he sighed and 
realized how rigidly he’d been standing there. And of course 
he’d been open to attack from behind all that time. 

No, not really. If he couldn’t see an arm’s length away, 
neither could the other two. 

But they didn’t have to see. They knew the ropes so well 
that they could grope blindfolded to his nest and there feel 
him out. A touch of a finger, followed by a thrust of steel. 
That would be all it would take. 

He was thinking of that when he felt the finger. It poked 
into his back and held him like a statue for just a second, 
quivering, paralyzed. Then he gave a hoarse cry and jumped 


away. He snatched out his dagger and crouched down close 
to the floor, straining his eyes and ears, trying to detect them. 
Surely, if they were breathing as hard as he, he couldn’t fail 
to hear them. 

On the other hand, he realized with a sudden sickishness, 
they could hear him just as well. 

“Come onl Come on!” he said soundlessly, through clenched 
teeth. “Do something! Make a move so I can pin you, you 
sons of izzotsF' 

Perhaps they were doing the same, waiting for him to 
betray himself. The best thing was to hug the floor where 
he was and hope they’d stumble over him. 

He kept reaching out in front of him, feeling for the 
warm flesh of a face. His other hand held his dagger. 

It was during one of his tentative explorations that he 
felt the basket where Grizquetr had left it. At once, seized 
with what he thought was an inspiration, he pulled out the 
flare. Why wait for them to close in on him and butcher 
him like a hog? He’d send up the flare now, and in the first 
shock of its glare he’d attack them. 

The only trouble was, he’d have to put down his dagger 
in order to take his flint and steel and tinderbox from his 
pocket. He hated not to have it ready for thrusting. 

Solving this problem by putting the dagger between his 
teeth, he took out his firebox, paused, and swiftly put them 
back. Now, how was he supposed to get the tinder going when 
it was drizzling? That was one thing Amra, with all her 
cleverness, hadn’t thought of. 

“Fool!” he whispered to himself. “I’m the fool!” And in 
the next moment, he was removing his coat and putting the 
flint and steel and box under its protecting cover. He couldn’t 
see what he was doing, but if he held the tinder close enough 
a spark should fall on it. Then he’d have a flame hot enough 
to touch off the fuse of the flare. 

Again, he froze. His enemies were waiting for him to reveal 
himself through noise. What better giveaway than flint scrap- 
ing against steel? And what about the sound of the rocket 
flare’s spiked support being driven into the wooden floor? 

He suppressed a groan. No matter what he did he was 
leaving himself wide open. 


It was then that the shrillness of a whistle below startled 
him. He rose, wondering frenziedly what he should do next 
So convinced was he that Ezkr and Grazoot were poised just 
outside the nest, he could not believe that Amra had not 
misjudged the time it had taken them to climb to him or that 
she had not been held up for some reason and now was 
frantically trying to warn him. 

But, he realized, he couldn’t just stand there like a scared 
sheep. Whether Amra was right or not, whether they were 
within dagger’s thrust or not, he had to take action. 

“Do your damndest!’’ he growled at whatever might be in 
the dark, and he struck steel against flint. The materials 
were under his coat, blocking his view, but he lay down 
again so he could see between his arms and under the coat 
held over them. The tinder caught at once and blazed up, then 
began a small but steady glow in the harder wood of the box. 
Without waiting to look around. Green rammed the flare’s 
spike into the deck of the nest. Swiftly he brought the punk 
up, still holding the coat over it for protection from the drizzle 
and also from any watching eyes. He held it against the fuse, 
saw the cord catch flame and sizzle like a frying worm. 
Then he had ducked around the other side of the mast that 
supported the nest, for he knew how unpredictable these 
primitive rockets were. Like as not it would go off in his face. 
Hardly had he rounded the big pillar of the mast when he heard 
a soft whooshing sound. He looked up just in time to see the 
rocket explode in a white glare. The moment it dispelled the 
darkness he jerked his head to the right and the left in an 
effort to see if Ezkr and Grazoot were on him, as he’d known 
they must be. 

But they weren’t They were still half a ship’s length away 
from him, caught by the light in the rigging, like flies in a 
spider’s web. What he had thought was a finger poking him in 
the back must have been the bolt that held the support for 
the muskets which were to be fired from the nest during com- 

So relieved was he, he would have broken into loud laugh- 
ter, but at that moment a great cry broke from the decks 
below. The mate and the helmsmen were shouting in alarm. 


Green looked down, saw them pointing, and his gaze fol- 
lowed the direction of their extended fingers. 

A hundred yards ahead, rushing at them on a collision 
course, was a towering clump of treesl 


Then the flare had died and had left nothing but its after- 
image on the eye — and panic on the brain. 

Green did not know what to make of it. In the first instant 
he had thought that it was the ’roller alone that was speeding 
toward an uncharted forest-grown hill. Immediately after, he’d 
seen that his senses were deceiving him and that the mass was 
also moving. It had looked like a hill, or several hills, sliding 
across the grass toward them. But even as the darkness came 
back he’d seen that there were other hills behind it, and that 
the whole thing was actually a sort of iceberg of rocks and of 
soil from which grew trees. 

That was all he could make out in that confusing moment. 
Even then he couldn’t believe it, because a mountain just 
didn’t run along of its own volition on flat land. 

Credible or not, it was not being ignored by the helms- 
men. They must have turned the wheel almost at once, for 
Green could feel the leaning of the mast to port and the shift 
of wind upon his face. The Bird was swinging to the southwest 
in an effort to avoid the “roaming island.” Unfortunately it 
was too dark for the men to have worked swiftly in trimming 
the sails even if a full crew had been aloft. And there were 
far too few on the top, as it was not thought necessary to have 
them on duty when the ’roller was running in the post-sunset 

Green had time for one short prayer — no nonsense about 
punching a god in the nose, now — and then he was hurled 
against the wall of the nest. There was the loudest noise he’d 
ever heard — the loudest because it was the crack of doom for 
him. Rope split like a giant’s whip cracking; spars, suddenly 
released from the rigging, strummed like monster violins; 


the masts, falling down, thundered; intermingled with all that 
were the screams of the people below on the deck and in 
the holds. Green himself was screaming as he felt the foremast 
lean over, and he slid from the floor of the nest, which had 
suddenly threatened to become a wall, and fought to hold him- 
self on the wall, which had now become a floor. His fingers 
closed upon the musket-support with the desperation of one 
who clings to the only solid thing in the world. 

For a minute, the mast stopped its forward movement, 
held taut by the tangled mass of ropes. Green hoped that 
he was safe, that all the damage had been done. 

But no, even as he dared think he might come out alive, 
the mighty grinding noise began again. The island of rock 
and trees was continuing its course and was smashing the 
hull of the ship beneath it, gobhling up wheels, axles, keel, 
timber, cargo, cannon and people. 

The next he knew, he was flying through the air, tom 
from his hold, catapulted far away from the ’roller. It seemed 
as if he actually soared, gained altitude, though this must have 
been an illusion. Then the hard return to earth, the impact 
on his face, his body, his legs. The outstretched arms to 
soften the blow that must surely splinter his bones and pulp 
his flesh. The pitiful arms, the last warding-off gesture before 
annihilation. The series of hard blows, like many fists. The 
sudden realization that he was among tree branches and that 
his fall was being broken by them. His trying to grab one 
to hang on and its slipping away and his continued rapid and 
punishing descent. 

Then, oblivion. 

He didn’t know how long he’d been unconscious, but when 
he sat up he saw through the trunks of the trees the shat- 
tered hull of the Bird about a hundred feet away. It was lying 
on its side on a lower level than he was, so he supposed that 
he was sitting on the slope of a hill. Only half of the craft 
was in sight; it must have been broken in two, and most 
of the middeck and stem ground into rubble beneath the ad- 
vancing juggernaut of the island. 

Dully, he realized that the drizzle had stopped, the clouds 
had cleared and the big and little moons were up. The seeing 
was good, too good. 


There were people left alive in the wreck, men, women and 
children who were trying to climb through the tangle of 
ropes, spars and broken, jagged, projecting planks. Screams, 
moans, shouts and calls for help made a chaos. 

Groaning, he managed to rise to his feet. He had a very 
painful headache. One eye was so swollen he couldn’t see with 
it. He tasted blood in his mouth and felt several broken teeth 
with his lacerated tongue. His sides hurt when he breathed. 
The skin seemed to have been torn off the palms of his hands. 
His right knee must have been wrenched, and his left heel 
was a ball of fire. Nevertheless he got up. Amra and Paxi 
and her other children were in there; that is, unless they’d 
been caught in the other half. He had to find out. Even if 
they were beyond his help there were others who weren’t. 

He started to hobble through the trees. Then he saw a 
man step out from behind a bush. Thinking that he must be 
a survivor who had wandered off in a dazed condition, Green 
opened his mouth to speak to him. But there was something 
odd about him that imposed silence. He looked closer. Yes, 
the fellow wore a headdress of feathers and held a long spear 
in his hand. And the moonlight, where it slipped through 
the branches and shone upon an exposed shoulder, gleamed 
red, white, blue-black, yellow and green. The man was paint- 
ed all over with stripes of different colors I 

Green slowly sank down upon his hands and knees behind 
a bush. It was then that he became aware of others who stood 
behind trees and watched the wreck. Then these emerged from 
the darkness under the branches. Presently, at least fifty 
plumed, painted, armed men were gathered together, all silent, 
all intently inspecting the wreck and the survivors. 

One raised a spear as a signal and gave a loud, whooping 
war cry. The others echoed him, and when he ran out from 
beneath the branches they followed him. 

Green could watch only for a minute before he had to 
close his eyes. 

“No, no!” he moaned. ‘The children, too!” 

When he forced himself to look again, he saw that he 
had been mistaken in thinking that everybody had been put to 
spear. After the first vicious onslaught, in which they’d killed 
indiscriminately and hysterically, like all undisciplined primi- 


tives, they’d spared the younger women and the little girls. 
Those able to walk were lined up and marched off under the 
guard of half a dozen spearsmen. The too badly injured were 
run through on the spot. 

Even in the midst of this scene. Green felt some of his 
intense anguish eased a little. Amra was still alivel 

She held Paxi in one arm and with the other pulled Soon, 
her daughter by the temple sculptor. Though she must have 
been terribly frightened, she faced her captors with the same 
proud bearing she’d always had, whether in the presence 
of peasant or prince. Inzax, her maid, stood behind her. 

Green decided that he’d better try to follow her and her 
captors at a discreet distance. But before he could get away 
he saw the women and older children of the savages appear, 
bearing torches. Fortunately none came his way. Some of these 
mutilated the dead, dancing around the hacked corpses and 
howling in imitation of the adult men. Then began the work 
in earnest, the carving up of the flesh. These painted people 
were cannibals and made no bones about it. Fires were being 
lit for a midnight snack before the bulk of the meat was 
brought back to wherever their homes were. 


Green stayed far enough behind the prisoners and savages 
to keep out of sight if any man should turn. The path was 
narrow, winding between crowding trunks and under low 
branches. The soil underfoot was rich and springy, as if com- 
posed of generations of leaves. Green estimated he must have 
gone at least a mile and a half, not as the crow flies, but more 
like a drunk trying to find his way home. Then, without warn- 
ing, the forest stopped and a clearing was before him. In the 
midst of this stood a village of about ten log houses with 
thatched roofs. Six were rather small outhouses serving one 
purpose or another. The four large ones were, he guessed, long 
houses for community living. They were grouped about a 
central spot in which were the remains of several large fires 


beneath big iron pots and spits. Clay tanks were scattered 
here and there; these held rain water. Before each house was 
a twenty-foot-high totem pole, brightly painted, and around 
it many slender poles holding skulls. 

The prisoners were led into one of the outhouses and the 
door barred. A man stationed himself at the front, squatting 
with his back to the wall and holding a spear in one hand. The 
others greeted the old women and younger children who had 
been left behind. Though they spoke in a language Green didn’t 
understand, they were obviously describing what they’d found 
at the wreck. Some of the old crones then began piling brush- 
wood and small logs under one of the huge iron kettles; pres- 
ently they had a fire blazing brightly. Others brought out 
glasses and cups of precious metals — loot from wrecks. These 
they filled with some sort of liquor, probably a native beer, 
judging from the foam that spilled over the sides. One of the 
young boys began idly tapping upon a drum and soon was beat- 
ing out a monotonous simple rhythm. It looked as if they 
were going to make a night of it. 

But after a few drinks the warriors arose, picked up jugs 
of liquor and walked into the woods, leaving one man to guard 
the prisoners’ hut. All the children over the age of four left 
with them, trailing along in the dark, though the warriors 
made no effort to slow their pace so the children could keep 

Green waited until he was sure the spearsmen were some 
distance away, then rose. His muscles protested at any move- 
ment, and pains shot through his head, knee and ankle. But 
he ignored them and limped around the edge of the clearing 
until he came to the back of one of the long houses. 

He slipped inside and stood by the side of the doorway. It 
was more illuminated than he’d thought at first, because of 
the several large and open windows which admitted moon- 
beams. Hens sleepily clucked at him, and one of the midget 
pigs grunted questioningly. Suddenly something soft brushed 
across his ankles. Startled, he jumped to one side. His heart, 
which had been beating fast enough before, threatened to 
hammer a hole in his ribs. He crouched, straining to see what 
it was. Then a soft meowing nearby told him. He relaxed a 


little and stretched out a hand, saying, “Here, kitty, kitty, come 

But the cat walked by, his tail raised and a look of disdain 
on his face as he disappeared through the door. Seeing the 
animal reminded Green of something about which he was 
anxious. That was whether the natives kept dogs or not. He 
hadn’t seen any and thought that surely if there were some he’d 
have long ago heard the noisy beasts. Undoubtedly, by now, 
he should have a whole pack of the obnoxious monsters snarl- 
ing at his heels. 

Silently, he walked into the long single room with its high 
ceiling. From thick rafters hung rolled-up curtains, which he 
supposed would be let down to make a semi-private room for 
any families that wished it. From them also hung vegetables, 
fruit and meat; chickens, rabbits, piglets, squirrels, hoober 
and venison. There were no human parts, so he guessed that 
the flesh of man was not so much a staple diet to these people 
as a food for religious purposes. 

All he did know was that he would have to take some meat 
with him. He gathered strips of dried hoober, rolled them into 
a ball and stuffed them in a bag. Then he took down an iron- 
headed spear and a sharp steel knife from their rack on the 
wall. Knife in belt and spear in hand, he went out the back 

Outside, he stopped to listen to the far-off beating of drums 
and the chanting of voices. There must be quite a celebration 
around the wreck. 

“Good,” he muttered to himself. “If they get drunk and pass 
out I’ll have time for what I want to do.” 

Staying well within the shadows of the trees, he picked his 
way to the back of the hut in which the prisoners were. From 
where he stood he could see that there were only six old wom- 
en — about all the island’s economy could afford, he supposed 
— and some ten infants, all toddlers. Most of these, once the 
excitement caused by the noisy warriors had subsided with 
their leavetaking, had lain down close to the fire and gone to 
sleep. The only one who might give real trouble, aside from 
the guard, was a boy of ten, the one who was now tapping 
softly on the drum. At first Green could not understand why 
he hadn’t gone with the others of his age to the wreck. But 


the empty stare and the unblinking way he looked into the 
fire showed why. Green had no doubt that if he were to come 
close enough to the lad, he’d see that the eyeballs were filmed 
over with white. Blindness was nothing rare on this filthy 

Satisfied as to everybody’s location, he crept to the back 
of the hut and examined the walls. They were made of thick 
poles driven into the ground and bound together with rope 
taken from a ’roller’s rigging. There were plenty of openings 
for him to look through, but it was so dark that he could see 
only the vague outlines moving about. 

He put his mouth to one of the holes and said softly, 

Somebody gasped. A little girl began to cry but was quickly 
hushed up. Amra answered, faint with joy. 

“Alan I It can’t be you!" 

“I am not thy father’s ghost I” he replied, and wondered at 
the same time how he could manage to inject any levity at 
all into the midst of this desperate situation. He was always 
doing it. Perhaps it was not the product of a true humor but 
more like the giggle of a person who was embarrassed or un- 
der some other stress, more the result of hysteria than any- 
thing else, his particular type of safety valve. 

“Here’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “Listen carefully, 
then repeat it after me so I’ll know you have it down.” 

She had to hear it only once to give it back to him letter- 
perfect. He nodded. “Good girl. I’m going now.” 


“Yes?” he replied impatiently. 

“If this doesn’t work ... if anything should happen to you 
. . . or me . . . remember that I love you.” 

He sighed. Even in the midst of this the eternal feminine 

“I love you, too. But that hasn’t got much to do with this 

Before she could answer and waste more valuable time he 
slid away, crawling on all fours around the comer of the hut. 
When he was where one more pace would have brought him 
into view of the guard and the old crones, he stopped. All this 
while he’d been counting the seconds. As soon as he’d clocked 


five minutes — which he thought would never pass — he rose 
and stepped swiftly around the comer, spear held in front 
of him. 

The guard was drinking out of his mug with his eyes closed 
and his throat exposed. He fell over with Green’s spear plunged 
through his windpipe, just above the breastbone. The mug fell 
onto his lap and gushed its amber and foam over his legs. 

Green withdrew the blade and whirled, ready to run upon 
anybody who started to flee. But the old women were huddled 
on their knees around a large board on which they were roll* 
ing some flour, cackling and talking shrilly. The blind boy 
continued tapping, his open eyes glaring into the fire. Only 
one saw Green, a boy of about three. Thumb in mouth, he 
stared with great round eyes at this stranger. But he was either 
too horrified to utter a sound or else he did not understand 
what had happened and was waiting to find out his elders’ 
reactions before he offered his own. 

Green lifted one finger to his lips in the universal sign of 
silence, then turned and lifted up the bar over the door. Amra 
rushed out and took the guard’s spear from her husband. The 
dead man’s knife went to Inzax and his other knife to Aga, 
a tall, muscular woman who was captain of the female deck 
hands and who had once killed a sailor while defending her 
somewhat dubious honor. 

At the same time, the chattering of the hags stopped. Green 
whirled around, and the silence was broken by shrieks. Fran- 
tically, the hags tried to scramble up from their stiffened knees 
and run away. But Green and the women were upon them be- 
fore they could take more than a few steps. Not one of them 
reached the forest. It was grim work, one in which the Effeny- 
can woman took fierce joy. 

Without wasting a look on the poor old carcasses, Green 
rounded up the children and the blind boy and put them in the 
prisoners’ hut. He had to hold Aga back from slaughtering 
them. Amra, he was pleased to see, had made no motion to 
help them in their intended butchery. She, understanding his 
brief look, replied, “I could not kill a child, even the spawn 
of these fiends. It would be like stabbing Paxi.” 

Green saw one of the women holding his daughter. He ran 
to her, took Paxi out of her arms and kissed the baby. Soon, 


Amra’s ten-year-old child by the sculptor, came shyly and 
stood by his side, waiting to be noticed. He kissed her, too. 
“You’re getting to be a big girl. Soon,” he said. “Do you 
suppose you could tag along behind your mother and carry 
Paxi for her? She has to carry her spear.” 

The girl, a big-eyed, redheaded beauty, nodded and took the 

Green eyed the long houses with the idea of setting them 
afire. He decided not to when it became apparent that the 
wind would carry sparks to the hut in which the savages’ 
children were. Moreover, though a fire would undoubtedly 
create consternation among the roisterers at the wreck and 
keep them busy for some time, it would also cause them to 
start tracking down the refugees just that much sooner. Be- 
sides, there was the possibility of setting fire to the forest, wet 
though it was. He didn’t want to destroy his only hiding-place. 

He directed some women to go into the long house and load 
themselves with as much food and weapons as they could 
carry. In a few minutes he had the party ready to leave. 

“We’ll take this path that leads out of the village away from 
the path that goes to the wreck,” he said. “Let’s hope it goes 
to the other edge of the island, where we may find some small 
’rollers on which we can escape. I presume these savages have 
some kind of sailing craft.” 

This path was as narrow and winding as the other one. It 
worked in the general direction of the western shore, and the 
savages were on the eastern shore. 

Their way at first led upward, sometimes through passes 
formed by two large rocks. Several times they had to skirt 
little lakes, catch basins for rain. Once a fish flopped out of 
the water, scaring them. The island was fairly self-sufficient, 
what with its fish, rabbits, squirrels, wild fowl, pigs and various 
vegetables and fruit. He estimated that if the village was in the 
center of the island, then the mass should have a surface 
area of about one and a half square miles. Rough though the 
land was and thickly covered with grass, the place should offer 
cover for one refugee. 

For one, yes, but not for six women and eight children. 



After much puffing and panting, muttered encouragements 
to each other, and occasional cursing, they finally reached the 
summit of the tallest hill. Abruptly, they found themselves 
facing a clearing which ran around its crown. Directly ahead 
of them was a forest of totem poles, all gleaming palely in the 
moonlight. Beyond it was the dark yawning of a large cave. 

Green walked out from the shadows of the branches to take 
a closer look. When he came back he said, “There’s a little hut 
by the side of the cave. I looked in the window. An old wom- 
an’s asleep in it. But her cats are wide-awake and likely to wake 
her up.” 

“All those totem poles bear the heads of cats,” said Aga. 
“This place must be their holy of holies. It’s probably taboo 
to all but the old priestess.” 

“Maybe so,” replied Green. “But they must hold religious 
services of some sort here. There’s a big pile of human skulls 
on the other side of the cave mouth, and also a stake covered 
with bloodstains. 

“We can do two things. Go on down the other side of this 
hill, jump off onto the plain and take our chances there. Or 
else hide inside the cave and hope that because it’s taboo no- 
body will explore it to look for us.” 

“It seems to me that’s the first place they’d look into,” 
said Aga. 

“Not if we don’t wake the old woman. Then if the savages 
come along later and ask her if anybody’s come by they’ll get 
no for an answer.” 

“What about the cats?” 

Green shrugged his shoulders. “We’ll have to take that 
chance. Perhaps, if once we get by them and into the cave, 
they may quiet down.” 

He was referring to their caterwauling, which was beginning 
to sound dreadful. 

“No,” said Aga, “that noise will be a signal to the islanders. 
They’ll know something’s up.” 


“Well,” replied Green, “I don’t know what you intend do- 
ing, but I’m going into that cave. I’m too tired to run any 

“So are we,” affirmed the other women. “We’ve reached the 
end of our strength." 

There was a silence, and into that silence came a voice, a 

It whispered, “Please do not be startled. Be quiet. It is 
I ” 

Miran stepped out of the shadows behind them, holding 
his finger to his lips, his one eye round and pale in the moon- 
light. He was a ragged captain, not at all the elegantly uni- 
formed commander of the Bird of Fortune and the wealthy- 
appearing patriarch of the Clan Effenycan. But he carried in 
his other hand a canvas bag. Green, seeing it, knew that Miran 
had managed somehow not only to escape with his skin but 
had also carried off a treasure in jewels. 

“Behold,” he announced, waving the bag, “all is not lost.” 

Green thought that he was referring to the jewels. However, 
Miran had turned and beckoned to someone in. the darkness 
behind him. 

Gut of it slipped Grizquetr. Tears shone in his eyes as he 
ran to his mother and fell into her arms. 

Amra began weeping softly. Until now she had repressed 
her grief over the children she thought forever lost to her. 
All thought had been directed to saving her own life and 
the lives of the two girls who had survived with her. Now, 
seeing her eldest son emerge from the shadows as if from the 
grave had thawed the frozen well of sorrow. 

She sobbed, “I thank the gods that they have given me back 
my son.” 

“If the gods are so wonderful why did they kill your other 
two children?” asked Miran sourly. “And why did they kill my 
Clansmen, and why did they smash my Bird? Why . . .?” 

“Shut upl” said Green. “This is no time to cry about any- 
thing. We have to get out with whole hides. The philosophiz- 
ing and tears can come later.” 

“Mennirox is an ungrateful god,” muttered Miran. “After 
all I did for him, too.” 

Amra dried her tears and said, “How did you escape? I 


thought all the males who hadn’t been killed in the wreck were 

“Almost everybody was,” replied Grizquetr. “But I crawled 
down into the hold and slipped through to a hiding place be- 
neath one of the fish tanks, which had overturned. It was wet 
there, and there were dead fish nestling beside me. The sav- 
ages did not find me, though doubtless they would have when 
they began salvaging. It was thinking about that that decided 
me to crawl back out on the other side of the Toller away from 
the savages. I did so, and I found that I could belly my way 
through the grass growing on the edge. I almost died of fright, 
though, because I crawled head on into Miran. He was hiding 
there, too.” 

“I was thrown off the foredeck by the impact,” interrupted 
the captain. “I should have broken every bone in my body, but 
I landed on a hull sail, which had come down and was lying 
on the starboard side, supported by the fallen mast. It was 
like falling into a hammock. From there I dropped into the 
grass and snaked along the very edge of the island. Several 
times I almost fell off, and I would have if I’d been a pound 
fatter, an inch wider. As it was . . .” 

“Listen,” said Grizquetr, breaking in. “This island is the 

“What do you mean?” said Green. 

“While I was clinging to the edge of the island I thought 
I’d hang down over it and see if there was any place there to 
hide. There wasn’t, because the underside of the island is one 
smooth sheet. I know, because I could see in the moonlight 
clear to the other side. It was smooth, smooth, like a slab of 

“And that’s not all! You know how the grass on the plains 
hereabouts has been tall, uncut? Well, the grass just ahead of 
the edge was uncut. But the grass underneath the island was 
being cut off. Rather, it was vanishing! The top of the grass 
was just disappearing into air! Only a lawn of grass about 
an inch high was left!” 

“Then this island is one big lawnmower,” said Green. “More 
than just interesting. But we’ll have to investigate that later. 
Right now . . .” 

And he walked toward the little hut by the cave mouth. As 


he approached it several large house cats streaked out of the 
doorway. A moment later Green came out. He grinned broad- 

“The priestess has passed out. The place smells like a brew- 
ery. The cats are in their cups, too. All drinking from bowls 
set on the ground for them, staggering around, yowling, fight- 
ing. If they don’t wake her up, nothing can.” 

“I have heard that these old priestesses are often drunk- 
ards,” said Amra. “They lead a lonely life because they’re 
taboo, and nobody even goes near them except during certain 
religious customs. They have only their bottle and their cats 
to keep them company.” 

“Ah,” said Miran, “you are thinking of the Tale of Samdroo, 
the Tailor Who Turned Sailor. Yes, that is supposed to be 
a story to entertain children, but I’m beginning to think there 
is a great deal to it. Remember, the story describes just such 
a hill and just such a cave. It is said that every roaming island 
has just such a place. And . . .” 

“You talk too much,” broke in Aga harshly. “Let’s get on 
into the cave.” 

Green could appreciate what Aga’s comment meant. Miran 
had lost face because he’d allowed his vessel to be wrecked 
and his Clansmen murdered en masse. To Aga and the other 
women he was no longer Captain Miran, the rich patriarch. 
He was Miran, the shipwrecked sailor. A fat old sailor. Just 
that. Nothing more. 

He could have redeemed himself if he had committed sui- 
cide. But his eagerness to live had resulted in his placing him- 
self on an even lower level in their estimation. 

Miran must have realized this, for he did not reply. Instead 
he stood to one side. 

Green walked thirty paces into the cave, then looked back 
over his shoulder. The entrance was still visible, an arch 
outlined in the bright moonshine. 

Someone coughed. Green was about to caution them to 
keep quiet, when he felt his nostrils tickling and had to fight 
to down a loud sneeze himself. 


“Good,” said Green. “Maybe they never come down here.” 

Suddenly the tunnel turned at right angles, to the left. The 


little light that penetrated from the entrance disappeared in 
total blackness. The party halted. 

“What if there are traps set for intruders?” wailed Inzax. 

“That’s a chance we’ll have to take,” Green growled. “We’ll 
go in the dark until we come to another turn. Then we’ll light 
up a torch or two. The natives won’t be able to see the glow.” 

He walked ahead feeling the wall with his left hand. Sud- 
denly he stopped. Amra bumped into him. 

“What is it?” she asked anxiously. 

“The rock wall has now become metal. Feel here.” 

He guided her hand. 

“You’re right,” she whispered. “There’s a definite seam, and 
I can tell the difference between the two!” 

‘The floor’s metal, too,” added Soon. “My feet are bare, 
and I can feel it. What’s more, the dust is all gone.” 

Green went ahead, and after thirty more paces he came 
to another ninety-degree turn, to the right. The walls and floor 
were composed of the smooth, cool metal. After making sure 
that the entire party was around the corner, he told a woman 
carrying some torches taken from a long house to light one. 
Its bright flare showed the group staring round-eyed at the 
large chamber in which they stood. 

Everywhere were bare gray metal walls and floors. No fur- 
niture of any kind. 

Nor a speck of dust. 

“There’s a doorway to another room,” he said. “We might 
as well go on in.” 

He took the torch from the woman and, holding a cutlass 
in the other, he led the way. Once across the threshold he 

This room was even larger than the other. But it had fur- 
nishings of a sort. And its further wall was not metal but earth. 

At the same time the room began to brighten with light 
coming from an invisible source. 

Soon screamed and threw herself against her mother, cling- 
ing desperately to her waist. The babies began howling, and 
the other adults acted in the various ways that panic affected 

Green alone remained unmoved. He knew what was happen- 
ing, but he couldn’t blame the rest for their behavior. They 


had never heard of an electronic eye, so they couldn’t be ex- 
pected to maintain coolness. 

The only thing that Green feared at that moment was that 
the outcries would be heard by the savages outside the cave. 
So he hastened to assure the women that this phenomenon was 
nothing to be frightened about. It was common in his home 
country. A mere matter of white magic that anyone could prac- 

They quieted down but were still uneasy. Wide-eyed, they 
bunched up about him. 

“The natives themselves aren’t scared of this,” he said. “They 
must come here at times. See? There’s an altar built against 
that dirt wall. And from the bones piled beneath it I’d say 
that sacrifices were held here.” 

He looked for another door. There seemed to be none. He 
found it hard to believe that there couldn’t be. Somehow he’d 
had the feeling that great things lay ahead of him. These rooms, 
and this lighting, were evidences of an earlier civilization that 
quite possibly had been on a level with his own. He’d known 
that the island itself must be powered with an automatically 
working anti-gravity plant, fueled either atomically or from 
the planet’s magneto-gravitic field. Why the whole unit should 
be covered with rocks and soil and trees he didn’t know. But 
he had been sure that somewhere in the bowels of this mass of 
land was just such a place as this. And more. Where was the 
power plant? Was it sealed up so that no one could get to it? 
Or, as was likely, was there a door to the plant which could 
not be opened unless one had a key of some sort? 

First he had to find the door. 

He examined the altar, which was made of iron. It was a 
platform about three feet high and ten feet square. Upon it 
stood a chair, fashioned from pieces of iron. From its back 
rose a steel rod about half an inch in diameter and ten feet 
long, its lower end held secure between two uprights by a thick 
iron fork. Once the fork was withdrawn, the rod would ob- 
viously fall over against the earth wall behind it, though the 
lower end would still remain on the uprights and would, in 
fact, stick against whoever was sitting in the chair at the mo- 

“Odd,” said Green. “If it weren’t for those catheaded idols 


on the ends of the platform, and the bones at its foot, I’d not 
know this was an altar. Bones! They’re black, burned black.” 
He looked again at the rod. “Now,” he said, half to him- 
self, “if I were to withdraw the fork, and the rod fell, it would 
strike the \tfall. That is evident. But what is it all about?” 
Amra brought him some long pieces of rope. 

“These were stacked against the wall,” she said. 

“Yes? Ah! Now, if I were to tie one end of this rope about 
the apex of that rod, and someone else were to stand upon the 
altar and take out the fork, then I could control which direction 
the rod would fall by pulling it toward me. Or allowing it to 
go away from me. And the person who had taken the fork 
out would then have plenty of time to get down from the altar 
and back to the region of safety, where the rope-wielder and 
his friends would be stationed. Alas, the poor fellow sitting in 
the chair! Yes, I see it all now.” 

He looked up from the rope he held in his hand. “Aga!” he 
said sharply. “Get away from that wall!” 

The tall, lean woman was walking past the altar, holding 
her bare cutlass in her hand. When she heard Green she paused 
in her stride, gave him an astonished look, then continued. 

“You don’t understand,” she called back over her shoulder. 
“This wall isn’t solid earth. It’s fluffy, like a young chick’s 
feathers. It’s dust, dust. I think we can knock it down, cut our 
way through. There must be something on the other side. . . .” 
“Aga!” he yelled. “Don’t! Stop where you are!” 

But she had lifted her blade and brought it down in a hard 
stroke that was to show him how easy the stuff would be to 
slash away. 

Green grabbed Amra and Paxi and dived to the floor, pull- 
ing them with him. 

Thunder roared and lightning filled the room, dazzling and 
deafening him! Even in its midst he could see the dark figure 
of Aga, transfixed, crucified in white fire. 



Then Aga was blotted out by the dense cloud of dust that bil- 
lowed out over her and filled the whole room. With it came 
an intense heat. Green opened his mouth to cry out to Amra 
and Paxi to cover their faces and especially their noses. Be- 
fore he could do so his own open mouth was packed with dust 
and his nostrils were full. He began sneezing and coughing ex- 
plosively, while his eyes ran tears in their efforts to wash out 
the dirt that caked and burned them. Clods of dirt struck him, 
hurled by the blast. They didn’t hurt because they were so small 
and so fluffy. But they fell so swiftly and in such numbers that 
he was half-buried under them. Even in the midst of his shock 
he couldn’t help being thankful that he’d been breathing out 
when the heat struck him. Otherwise he’d have sucked in air 
that would have seared his lungs, and he’d have dropped dead.' 
As it was, wherever his skin had not been covered by cloth he 
felt as if he were suffering a bad case of sunburn. 

Painfully, he rose on all fours and began crawling toward 
the other room, where he thought the dust would not be so 
thick. At the same time he tugged at Amra’s arm — at least he 
supposed it was her arm, since she’d been so close to him when 
the explosion took place. His gesture was intended to tell her 
that she should follow him. She rose and followed him, touch- 
ing him from time to time. Once she stopped, and he turned 
to find out what was bothering her, even if he felt that he 
couldn’t stand much more of the almost solid dust in his 
lungs and had to get out to open air or strangle. Then he knew 
that the woman was Amra, for she was carrying a child in 
her arms. The child had a scarf around her head and, as he re- 
membered, Paxi was the only infant so dressed. 

Coughing violently, he rose to his feet, pulling Amra to hers, 
and swiftly walked toward where he hoped the exit was. He 
knew he’d fallen on his face in the general direction of the 
doorway; if he kept in a straight line he might make it without 
wandering off to one side. 


He found soon enough that he was going just opposite, for 
he fell headlong over a body on the floor. When he got up 
again, he ran his hands over the body. The skin was crusty, 
scaly. Aga’s burned corpse. The cutlass was lying by her side, 
assuring him of her identity. 

Re-oriented, he turned back, still pulling Amra by the hand. 
This time he ran into a wall, but he had his free hand stretched 
out in front of him for just such an event. Frantically, he 
groped to his left until he came to the corner of the room. 
Then, knowing that the doorway lay back to his right, he 
turned and felt along the metal until he came to the opening. 
He plunged through it, almost fell into the other room, which 
was as dark and dusty as the one he’d just left. He trotted on 
ahead, bumped into another wall, groped to his right, found 
the next exit and ran through that. Here the air was much 
more free of dust. He could actually make out outlines of his 
companions as the light was penetrating the fainter haze. 

Nevertheless he and the others were coughing and weep- 
ing as if they were trying to eject lungs and eyeballs alike. 
Spasm after spasm shook them. 

Green decided that this room wasn’t really much better 
than the others, so he led Amra and Paxi around the right- 
angled corner and into the dark tunnel. Here his violent rack- 
ings began to quiet down and by rapid blinking, which forced 
tears, he cleaned his eyes of much of the dust. Anxiously, 
he peered down the passageway toward its end, where the cave 
mouth formed a dim arch in the moonlight outside. 

It was as he’d feared. Somebody stood there, outlined in 
the beams, bent forward, peering in. 

He thought that it must be the priestess, for the figure was 
slight and the hair was pulled up on top of the head in a great 
Psyche knot with a feather stuck through it. Moreover, around 
her feet were four or five cats. 

His coughing betrayed him, for the priestess suddenly 
whirled and trotted off on her sticklike legs. Green dropped 
Amra’s hand and ran, at the same time drawing his stiletto 
from his belt, as he’d lost his cutlass during the explosion. He 
had to stop the priestess, though he didn’t know what good it 
would do. The savages sooner or later would come to the 
sanctuary to ask if she’d seen any of the refugees. And if they 


couldn’t find her they would at once suspect what had hap- 
pened. The chances were that they already knew. Surely, 
the noise of the blast must have penetrated even to their ears. 

Or had it? The air waves had to round several perpendicu- 
lar turns before reaching the cave mouth, and it might be that 
the noise had seemed much greater to Green than it actually 
was because he’d been so close to it. Perhaps there was some 

He ran into the clearing before the cave mouth. The sun was 
just coming over the horizon, so he could see things clearly. 
The old woman was nowhere in sight. The only live things 
were several drunken cats. One of these began to rub its back 
against Green’s leg and purred loudly. Automatically, he 
stooped down and caressed it, though his gaze flickered every- 
where for a sign of the priestess. The door of her hut was 
open and since it was so small he could be certain that she 
had no room in there to hide from him. She must have run 
off down the path. 

If so, she wasn’t making any noise about it. There were no 
outcries from her to call her companions to her help. 

He found her lying face down on the path, halfway down 
the hill. At first he thought she was playing possum, so he 
turned her over, his stiletto ready to shut off any outcry. A 
glance at her hanging jaw and ashen color convinced him that 
her possum-playing days were over. At first, he thought she’d 
tripped and broken her neck, but an examination disproved 
this. The only thing he could think of was that her old heart 
had given away under the sudden fright and the stress of run- 

Something brushed his ankles. So startled was he, so con- 
vinced that a spear had iust missed him, he leaped into the air 
and whirled around. Then he saw that it was only the cat that 
had rubbed itself against him when he’d first come out of the 
tunnel. It was a large female cat with a beautiful long black 
silky coat and with golden eyes. It exactly resembled the 
Earth cat and was probably descended from the same an- 
cestors as its terrestrial counterpart. Wherever Homo sapiens 
of the unthinkably long ago had penetrated he seemed to have 
taken his canine and feline pets. 

“You like me, huh?” said Green. “Well, I like you, too, but 


I’m not going to if you keep on scaring me. I’ve been through 
enough tonight for a lifetime.” 

The cat, purring, paced delicately toward him. 

“Maybe you can do me some good,” he said and lifted the 
cat to his shoulder, where she crouched, vibrating with con- 

“I don’t know what you see in me,” he confided softly to her. 
“I must be a frightful-looking object, what with being covered 
with dust, and my eyes red and raw and running. But then, 
you’re not so delightful yourself, what with your beery breath 
blowing in my face. I like you very much, What’s-your-name. 
What is your name? Let’s call you Lady Luck. After all, when 
I rubbed you I found the priestess dead. If she hadn’t died 
she’d have got away to warn the cannibals. And obviously, you, 
her luck, had deserted her for me. So Lady Luck it will be. 
Let’s go back up the hill and see what’s happened to the rest 
of my friends.” 

He found Amra sitting down at the cave’s mouth, cuddling 
Paxi in an effort to quiet her. Nine others were there, too, 
Grizquetr, Soon, Miran, Inzax, three women, two little girls. 
The rest, he presumed, were lying dead or unconscious in the 
altar room. They made a dirty-looking, red-eyed, weary group, 
not good for much except lying down and passing out. 

“Look,” he said, “we have to have sleep, whatever else 
happens. We’ll go back into the first chamber and get some 
there, and . . .” 

As one, the others protested that nothing would get them 
to return anywhere near that horrible fiend-haunted room. 
Green was at a loss. He thought he knew exactly what had 
happened, but he just could not explain to these people in terms 
they’d understand. And they probably would have a dark dis- 
trust of him from then on. 

He decided to take the simple, if untrue, explanation. 

“Undoubtedly Aga provoked a host of demons by striking 
at the wall behind the altar,” he said. “I tried to warn her. 
You all heard me. But those demons won’t bother us again, 
for we are now under the protection of the cat, the cannibals’ 
totem. Moreover it is the nature of such beings that, once 
they’ve released their fury and taken some victims, they are 
harmless, quiescent, for a long time after. It takes time for 


them to build up strength enough to hurt human beings again.” 

They swallowed this offering as they would never have his 
other explanation. 

“If you will lead the way,” they said, “we will return. We 
put our lives in your hands.” 

Before going into the cave he paused to take another survey. 
From his spot in the clearing, which was almost on the top of 
the hill, he could look over the tree tops and see most of the 
island, except where other hills barred his view. The island 
had stopped moving and had settled down against the plain 
itself. Now, to the untutored eye, the entire mass looked like 
a clump of dirt, rocks and vegetation for some reason rising 
from the grassy seas. It would remain so until dusk, when it 
would again launch itself upon its five-mile-an-hour journey 
to the east. And once having reached a certain point there, it 
would reverse itself and begin its nocturnal pilgrimage toward 
the west. Back and forth, shuttling for how many thousands 
of years? What was its purpose, and whom had its builders 
been? Surely they could not have conceived in their wildest 
dreams of its present use, a mobile fortress for a tribe of 

Nor could they have seen to what uses their dust-collectors 
would be put. They couldn’t have guessed that, millennia 
thence, men ignorant of their originally intended purpose would 
be using the devices as part of their religious ritual and of 
human sacrifice. 

Green left the others in the room next to the one where 
the explosion had taken place. They lay down on the hard 
floor and at once went to sleep. He, however, felt that there 
were certain things that had to be done and that he was the 
only one physically capable of doing them. 


Though he hated to go back into the altar room, he forced 
himself. The scene of carnage was bad enough, but not as 
repulsive as he’d expected. Dust had thrown a gray veil of 


mercy over the bodies. They looked like peaceful gray statues; 
most of them had not burned on the outside but had died be- 
cause they’d breathed the first lung-scorching wave of air 
directly. Nevertheless, despite the look of peace and antiquity, 
the odor of burned flesh from Aga hung heavy. Lady Luck 
bristled and arched her back, and for a moment Green thought 
she was going to leap from his shoulder and run away. 

He said, ‘Take it easy,” then decided that she must have 
smelled this often before. Her present reaction was based on 
past episodes; probably, there had been great excitement then. 
The cats, being taboo animals, must have been figures of some 
importance in the sacrificial ceremonies. 

Cautiously, the man approached the wall of dirt behind the 
altar, even though he did not think there would be any danger 
for some time to come. The altar itself was comparatively un- 
damaged. Surprised at this, he ran his hand over it and found 
out that it was composed of baked clay, hard as rock. The 
chair and metal rod had not been torn loose. Both were tightly 
bolted down with huge studs which he supposed had been 
taken off wrecked ’rollers. 

The victims that were tied in the chair by the savages must 
have been sitting looking at the audience, so that their backs 
were to the wall itself. That meant that when the rod was 
dropped to make contact between the wall and victim, the 
discharge only burned the sacrifice’s head. Evidence of that 
was the fact that only skulls were stacked around the altar. 
The charred head was severed and the body carted outside to 
one destination or another. 

What puzzled Green was how the audience managed to 
escape the fury of the blast and of the dust, even if they stood 
at the farthest end of the big room. Determined to find out 
what happened at those times, he returned to the doorway. 
Just around its comer, in the second room, he discovered what 
he’d not noticed before, probably because it was placed so 
upright and so firmly against one side of the wall. And because 
its back, which was turned away from the wall, was also made 
of gray metal. When he switched it around so he could see 
its other side, he was staring into a mirror about six feet high 
and four feet wide. 

Now he could visualize the ceremony. The victim was strap- 


ped into the chair and a rope was tied around the rod. Every- 
body but the priestess, or whoever conducted the rites, re- 
treated from the altar room. The conductor himself, or her- 
self, then stood in the doorway and released the cord. Before 
the rod could make contact, the conductor had stepped around 
the comer. And there the audience saw in the mirror, placed 
in the doorway so it reflected the interior of the altar room, 
the ravening discharge of a tremendous electrostatic blast. And 
immediately afterward, no doubt, they saw nothing because 
of the dust that would fill the two rooms. 

Strange and strong magic to the savages. What myths they 
must have built about this room, what tales of horrible and 
powerful gods or demons imprisoned in that wall of dirt! 
Surely their old women must whisper to the wide-eyed chil- 
dren stories of how the Great Cat-Spirit had been caught by 
their legendary strong man and savior, some analog to Her- 
cules or Gilgamesh or Thor, and how the Cat-Spirit was the 
tribe’s to keep prisoner with their magic and to appease from 
time to time with human kills from other tribes lest it become 
so angry it burst through the wall of earth and devour every- 
body upon the floating island! 

Green knew that it was hopeless to try to dig through that 
wall, even if it would be safe for days. It might only be several 
feet thick, or it might be twenty or more. 

But however thick it was, he bet that anybody who had the 
tools, time and strength to excavate would find, embedded 
somewhere in that mass, several large dust-collectors. He 
didn’t know what shape they’d take, because that would depend 
on the culture that had built them, and their tastes in deco- 
rations would differ from Green’s multimillennia-later society. 
But if they had architectural ideas similar to present-day Ter- 
rans they would have constructed the collectors in the shape 
of busts or of animals’ heads or even of bookcases with false 
backs of books filling them, books that would in reality have 
been both chargers and filters. The busts or books would have 
been pierced with many tiny holes, and through these holes 
the charged particles of dust would have drifted. Once inside 
the collectors, they would have been burned. 

Looking at the blank dirt before him, Green could see what 
had happened through the ages. Some part of the burning 


mechanism had gone wrong — as was the custom of mechan- 
isms everywhere. But the charging effect had continued. And 
though the dust had piled up around the collectors, the ex- 
traordinarily powerful fields had continued to work even 
through the thick blanket. In the beginning, of course, their 
field could not have caused any human being harm. But these 
batteries must have been built to adjust to whatever demand 
was made of them, though their builders, of course, could 
have had no idea of how great that demand would some day 
be. Nevertheless it had come, and the batteries had been equal 
to it. By the time the savages had found this room they were 
blocked off by this imposing wall. 

Through the death of their fellows they had discovered that 
touching the wall caused a terrible discharge of electrostatic 
electricity. The rest of the apparatus for execution and the 
ritual that went with it was foregone and logical, religiously 

Green swore with frustration. How he would love to get 
through that dirt before another charge built up! On the other 
side must be another doorway, and it must lead to the fuel 
and control rooms for this whole island. If he could get inside 
and there figure out the controls, he’d turn this island upside 
down and shake off the man-eating monsters. There’d be no 
holding him then! 

He remembered the story of Samdroo, the Tailor Who 
Turned Sailor. The legend went that Samdroo, his ’roller 
wrecked upon just such a roaming island as this one, had 
wandered into just such a cave and through rooms like these. 
But he’d found no barrier of electrically charged dirt and 
had walked into a room which contained many strange things. 
One of them was a great eye that allowed Samdroo to see in 
it what was happening outside the cave. Another was a board 
which contained many round faces over which raced little 
squiggles and lines. Of course, the story had its own ex- 
planations for what these things were, but Green could hardly 
fail to recognize TV, oscilloscopes and other instruments. 

Unfortunately his knowledge was going to do him no good. 
He wasn’t going to get through the dirt. Nor was he to be 
allowed time for excavation and exploration. Every minute on 
this island meant that he was traveling back to Quotz and its 


revengeful Duchess and getting farther from Estorya, where 
the two spacemen and their ship were. He had to find a way 
of getting off this place and onto some means of transportation. 

He left the death chamber and went into the next room. 
After slumping down against the wall, between Amra with 
Paxi in her arms, and Inzax with Grizquetr in hers, he chewed 
some dried meat. Lady Luck meowed for some and he gladly 
gave her all she wanted. When he’d swallowed all he could 
hold without bursting and had washed that down with great 
drafts of the warm and sweet beer taken from the priestess’s 
hut, he closed his eyes. Now, it was up to his Vigilante to 
take the food and rebuild his wasted tissue, throw off the effects 
of autointoxication, tone his tired muscles, relax his too-taut 
nerves, readjust his hormonal balance . . . 


Green dreamed that his mouth and nose were clogged with 
dirt and that he was suffocating. He woke to find that, while 
there was no earth upon him, he was having a difficult time 
getting his breath. Remedying that by removing the cat from 
his face, he rose. 

“What do you want?” he asked her. She was mewing and 
striking gently at him. 

She padded toward the doorway to the outside, so he im- 
agined that she wished him to follow her. Grasping his cutlass, 
he walked after her and out to the tunnel that led to the cave 
mouth. Not until then did he hear the booming of cannon, 
far away. 

The cat meowed plaintively. Evidently, she’d heard can- 
nonfire before and had not liked the results. 

Once out of the cave he stopped to look up at the sun. It 
was on its downward path from the zenith. About four o’clock 
in the afternoon. He’d slept about ten hours. 

Unable to see much -from where he stood, he climbed up 
the rocks outside the cave and soon stood upon the very top 
of the hill, a little tableland about ten feet square. From there 


he commanded as good a view of the island as anyone could 

Tacking around the periphery of the island were three long, 
low, black-hulled ’rollers with over-large wheels and scarlet 
sails. Occasionally a lance of red spurted from one of the 
vessel’s ports, a boom reached Green’s ears a few seconds 
later and he would see the iron ball climb up and up, then fall 
toward the village. A tree around the clearing would lose a 
limb, or a spurt of dust would show where a ball landed in 
the clearing itself. Two of the long houses had big holes in 
their roofs. The village itself was deserted, as no one with 
good sense would have remained there. None of the cannibals 
were visible, but that wasn’t surprising, considering how thick 
the woods were. 

Green hoped the Vings would land soon and clean out the 
savages. That would leave him and his party a clear field, 
unless the pirates investigated the cave in the same day. If 
they didn’t, then the refugees could leave the island and take to 
the plains under cover of the night. 

Anxiously, Green traced the path that led from the hilltop 
where he stood and wound down to the village. It was a nar- 
row trail and he often lost sight of it. But always there was 
a difference in the shading of the tree tops along the trail and 
the rest of the forest. With his eye he could follow the shading 
to the village and beyond, toward the back or western part 
of the island. 

It was here that he came across the first sign of hope he had 
had since the wreck of the Bird of Fortune It was a small 
break in the vegetation, which ran uninterrupted to the very 
edge of the island, a shelf of seemingly smooth earth, almost 
hidden from him by the slope of the terrain. Indeed, he could 
barely make it out and might have missed it altogether, 
but he saw the masts of three small ’rollers projecting from 
above the slope and followed them down toward the hulls. 
All three were yachts, obviously not of islander make. Beyond 
the stolen craft were the uprights of davits. These were behind 
a wall of branches, camouflage for anybody outside the island 
but visible to those on the inside. 

It was all Green could do to keep from whooping with joy. 
Now he and his party wouldn’t have to cast themselves on 


foot on the dangerous plains. They could sail in comparative 
safety. Now, while the cannibals were cowering helplessly 
under the bombardment Green could lead his people through 
the woods to the yachts. When dusk came and the island be- 
gan moving again they could lower a yacht from the davits 
and set sail. 

He went back to the cave entrance, where he found every- 
body awake, waiting for him. 

He told them what he’d seen and added, “If the Vings come 
aboard we’ll take advantage of the confusion and escape.” 
Miran looked at the sun and shook his head. ‘The Vings 
won’t attack now. It’s too close to dusk. They’ll want a full 
day for fighting. They’ll follow the island tonight. When dawn 
comes and the island stops they’ll board.” 

“I bow to your superior experience,” Green said. “Only I’d 
like to ask you one thing. Why don’t the Vings launch their 
small craft at night and land boarding parties from them?” 
Miran looked surprised. “No one does that! It’s unthink- 
able! Don’t you know that at night the plains abound in spirits 
and demons? The Vings wouldn’t think of taking a chance on 
what the magic of the savages might unloose against them in 
the darkness.” 

“I knew of the general attitude, but it had slipped my mind,” 
admitted Green. “But if this is so, why did you all wander 
about this place the night the Bird was wrecked?” 

“That was a situation where we preferred the somewhat 
uncertain possibility of stumbling across demons to the cer- 
tainty of being killed by the cannibals,” said Miran. 

“To be honest,” said Amra, “I was too scared to think of 
ghosts. If I had I might have stayed where I was. ... No, I 
wouldn’t either. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I had seen those 

“Well,” said Green, “all of you might as well make up your 
mind that, come ghosts, demons, or men, we’re walking through 
the dark tonight. All those too scared will have to stay behind.” 
He began issuing orders, and in a short time he had the 
sleepy-eyed, bedraggled and dirty-looking party ready. After 
that, he turned to watch the bombardment. 

By then it had largely ceased. Only occasionally did one 
of the vessels loose a single cannon shot. The rest of the time 


they spent in tacking back and forth and in running up close 
to the very edge of the island. 

“I think they are trying the temper of the island’s inhabi- 
tants,” Green said. “They don’t know whether the woods 
conceal a hundred savages or a thousand, or whether they’re 
armed with cannons and muskets or just with spears. They 
want to draw fire, so they can get an estimate of what they’re 

He turned to Miran. “Which reminds me, why is it that the 
natives don’t use guns? They must have a chance to get their 
hands on many from the wrecks.” 

The fat merchant shrugged and rolled his one good eye to 
indicate that he didn’t really know but was making a guess. 

“Probably they’ve a taboo against using firearms. What- 
ever the reason, they’re evidently suffering because they neg- 
lect them. Look how few they are. Only fifty men I They must 
have lost quite a few through raids from other savage tribes, 
both from those who live upon the plain itself and from those 
who live on other roaming islands. They’re down to the point 
now where they must die out within a generation, even with- 
out help from such as those,” he said, pointing to the Ving 

“Yes, and I suppose that during the daytime, when the island 
is stopped, grass cats and dire dogs board it. These must take 
their toll of the humans.” 

He gazed again at the red sails and wheels of the Vings. “I’d 
think that those pirates would take every island they could 
and would use them as bases from which to operate.” 

“They do,” said Amra. “For a generation now the Vings 
have been scouring the plains, locating the islands and ex- 
terminating the savages on them. Then they’ve fortified the 
islands, so that you might say that today the Xurdimur is 
dominated by them. But there’s a drawback to an island as a 
harbor. No large ’roller may get very close except in the day- 
light. They have to put out to grass every night and follow 
their base at a safe distance until dawn. However, though the 
Vings are well established on many roamers, they’re often 
attacked by the navies of various nations and sometimes driven 
off. Then the nation that takes possession of the island has a 
nice little base. And, of course, quite often they use it to launch 


their own piratical ventures against the craft of countries at 
peace with them. 

“Oh, the Xurdimur is a land where every man’s hand is 
against the other, and the devil take the ones with short sail! 
A man may make his fortune or break his heart, all in a 
night’s work. But, then, you know that only too well.” 

Green interrupted, “We’ll leave them, and the natives, too, 
when moonlight gets here. I only hope that there aren’t other 
Ving craft in the neighborhood.” 

“What the gods will, happens,” replied Miran. His sad face 
reflected the belief that if he, the favorite of Mennirox, could 
come to grief, then Green could expect even worse. 

When dusk came, Green walked from the cave into the 
dark and hard rain. Behind him came Amra, one hand upon 
his shoulder, the other supporting Paxi. The rest were stretched 
out in a line behind her, each person’s hand on the shoulder 
of the one ahead. 

The black cat was underneath Green’s coat, riding in a 
large pocket of his shirt. She had made it plain to him that 
where he went, she went. And Green, to avoid a big fuss and 
also because he was beginning to feel very affectionate toward 
her, allowed her to come along. 

The descent from the hilltop was an anxious and stumbling 
trip. Green, after ten minutes of groping along the path, had 
to acknowledge he did not know where he was. So many wind- 
ings had the path taken that he did not know whether he was 
going east, north, south, or in the right direction, west. 

Actually, it didn’t really matter, as long as it brought him 
to the edge of the island. He could skirt the edge until he 
arrived at the fleet craft that would give them a chance for 

The trouble was in finding that rim. He was afraid that 
it would be possible to wander in circles and figure eights until 
moonlight. Then, though they’d be able to orient themselves, 
they’d also be exposed to the view of the cannibals. And if 
they found themselves, say, at the eastern edge, their journey 
around would be perilous indeed. 

Occasional lightning flashed, and then he could make out 
his immediate environment. These brief revelations weren’t 


much help. All he could see were the solid-seeming walls of 
tree trunks and bushes. 

Suddenly Amra spoke. “Do you think we’re getting close?” 
He stopped so suddenly that the entire line lurched into 
him. Lightning burst again, quite close by. The cat, curled 
in his coat pocket, spat and tried to shrink into an even smaller 
ball. Absently, Green patted her from outside the coat. He said, 
“Your name is Lady Luck. I just saw the village. Now we’re 
getting some place. I really needed that referent.” 

He wasn’t worried about the inhabitants of the village. All 
were undoubtedly cowering under the roofs of their long 
houses, praying to whatever gods they worshiped that they 
would not send the lightning their way. There would be little 
danger if the whole party were to walk through the center of 
the village. He planned to take no chances at all, however, 
and ordered everybody to follow him around the clearing. 

“It won’t be long now!” he said to Amra. “Pass the word 
back and cheer everybody up.” 

Half an hour later he wished he’d kept his mouth shut. It 
was true that he’d followed the wandering path to the cove 
where their boats were kept. But he’d at once drawn his 
breath in pain of surprise. 

A lightning bolt had illuminated the gray rock walls of the 
cove, its broad shelf, and the high black iron davits. 

But the yachts were gone! 


Later Green thought that if ever the time came when he 
should have cracked up, that instant of loss, white and sud- 
den as the lightning itself, should have been the one. 

The others cried out loudly in their grief and shock, but 
he was as silent as the empty stone shelf. He could not move 
nor utter a word; all seemed hopeless, so what was the use of 
motion or talk? 

Nevertheless, he was human, and human beings hope even 
when there is no justification for it. Nor could he remain fro- 


zen until the next stroke of lightning would reveal to the 
others the state of their leader. He had to act. What if his 
actions were meaningless? Mere movement answered for the 
demands of the body, and at that moment it was his body 
that could move. His mind was congealed. 

Shouting to the others to scatter and look about in the 
brush, but not to scatter too far, he began climbing up the 
slope of the hill. When he had reached its top he left the path 
and plunged into the forest to his right on the theory that if 
the yachts were anywhere they must be there. He had two 
ideas about where they might be. One was that the Vings had 
spotted them and had sent in a party aboard a gig to push them 
over the side of the island. Thus, when the island had begun 
its nightly voyage it had left the ’rollers sitting upon the plain. 
The other theory was also inspired by the presence of the 
Vings. Perhaps the savages had hidden their craft because of 
just such an event as his first theory put forth. To do that they 
would have had to haul the 'rollers up the less steep slant of 
the cove. 

At the point where he would have looped a rope around a 
tree and used it to pull a yacht uphill, he saw all three of the 
missing craft. They were nestling side by side just over the lip 
of the slope, their hulls hidden by brush piled up before them. 
Their tall masts, of course, would be taken for tree trunks 
by anybody but a very close observer. 

Green yelled with joy, then whirled to run back and tell the 
others. And slammed into a tree trunk. He picked himself up, 
swearing because he’d hurt his nose. And tripped over some- 
thing and fell again. Thereafter, he seemed to be in a night- 
mare of frustration, of conspiracy between tree and night to 
catch and delay him. Where his trip up had been easy, his trip 
back was a continued barking of shins, bumping of nose, and 
tearing loose from clutching bushes and thorns. His confusion 
wasn’t at all helped when the lightning ceased, because he’d 
been guiding himself by its frequent flashes. And Lady Luck, 
alarmed at all the hard knocks she was getting, struggled out 
of his shirt pocket and slipped into the forest. He called to her 
to come back, but she had had enough of him, for the time 
being, anyway. 

For a brief moment he thought of the fantastic device of 


grabbing hold of her tail and following her through the dark. 
But she was gone, and the idea wouldn’t have worked, any- 
way. More than likely she’d have turned and bitten his hands 
until he released her. 

There was nothing to do but make his own way back. 

After ten minutes of frantic struggling, during which he 
suddenly realized he’d turned the wrong way and was wan- 
dering away from the edge of the island, he saw the clouds 
disappear. With the bright moon came vision and sanity. He 
turned around and in a short time was back at the cove. 

“What happened to you?” asked Amra. “We thought maybe 
you’d fallen off the edge.’ 

“That’s about all that didn’t happen,” he said, irritated now 
that he had been so easily lost. He told them where the yachts 
were and added, “We’ll have to let one down by a rope before 
we can connect it to the davits. It’ll take a lot of pushing and 
pulling, a lot of muscle. Everbody up on the hill, including 
the children!” 

Wearily, they climbed up the slope to the top and shoved 
one of the ’rollers up the slight incline of the depression to the 
lip of the hill. Green picked up one of the wet ropes lying on 
the ground and passed it around the tree. Its trunk had a 
groove where many ropes had worn a path during similar 
operations. One end he gave to half of the party, putting Miran 
in charge of them. The other end he tied in a bowknot to a 
huge iron eye which projected from the stern of the craft. 
Then, ordering the other half of the women to help him push, 
he got the ’roller over the lip and down the slope, while the 
rope gang slowly released the double loop around the tree in 
short jerks. 

When the craft had halted by the davits, Green untied the 
rope. His next step would be to back the yacht in between 
the davits so that he could hook up its ropes and lift it. 
Fortunately, there was a winch and cable for this. Unfor- 
tunately, the winch was hand-operated and had been allowed 
to get rusty. It would work only with great resistance and with 
loud squeaking. Not that more noise mattered, for the party 
had made so much that only the fact that the wind was from 
the east could have kept the savages in ignorance of the sur- 
vivors’ whereabouts. 


It was as if his thinking of them had brought them upon 
the scene. Grizquetr, who’d been stationed in a tree as a sen- 
tinel, called down, “I see a torch! It’s somewhere in the woods, 
about half a mile away. Oh! There’s another one! And another 

Green said, “Do you think they’re on the path that leads 

“I don’t know. But they’re coming this way, winding here 
and there, wandering like Samdroo when he was lost in the 
Mirrored Mazes of Gil-Ka-Ku, The Black One! Yes, they must 
be on the path!” 

Green began feverishly tying the davit-ropes to the axles 
of the craft. He sweated with anxiety and cursed when his 
fumbling fingers got in the way of his haste. But the tying of 
the four bowknots actually took less than a minute, in spite 
of the way time seemed to race past him. 

That done he had to order off the yacht some of the women 
who had climbed aboard. Only the women who had to take 
care of very small infants and the older children were to be 
on that boat. 

“Just who do you think is going to work the winch?” he 
barked at the too-eager. “Now, jump to it!” 

One of the women on the ’roller wailed, “Are you going to 
stay on the island and leave us all alone on this ’roller in the 
midst of the Xurdimur?” 

“No,” he answered, as calmly as possible. “We’re going to 
lower you to the ground. Then we’re going back up the hill 
and shove the other Tollers over the edge so that they can’t be 
used by the savages to come after us. We’ll jump off and walk 
back to you.” 

Seeing that the women were still not convinced and softened 
by their pitiable looks, he called to Grizquetr. 

“Come down! And get on the boat!” 

And when the boy had run down the slope and halted by his 
side, breathing hard and looking up at him for his orders, 
Green said, “I’m delegating you to guard these women and 
babies until we arrive. Okay?” 

“Okay,” said Grizquetr, grinning, his chest swelling be- 
cause of the importance of the duty. “I’m captain until you 
climb aboard, is that it?” 


“You’re a captain and a good one too,” said Green, slap- 
ping him lightly on the shoulder. Then he ordered the winches 
turned until the Toller was hoisted into the air a few inches. 
As soon as the rusty machines had groaningly fulfilled their 
functions he had the craft lowered over the edge and down 
to the plain. The transition was smoothly made; the yacht’s 
wheels began turning; the nose lifted only slightly because of 
the superior pull on the ropes tied to the bow; the stern ropes 
were paid out a little to equalize the strain; then, obeying 
Green’s gesture, the women aboard it pulled at the bowknots, 
which untied simultaneously. Not until then did he breathe a 
little easier, for if one or more had refused to slip loose as 
swiftly as another, the craft might have been pulled up on 
one side or dragged around by either end and thus capsized. 

For a few seconds he watched the Toller slip away, coast- 
ing on its momentum but headed at right angles to the di- 
rection of the island. Then it had stopped, and it began to 
grow smaller as the island left it behind. From it came the 
thin wailing of his daughter Paxi. It broke the spell that mo- 
mentarily held him. He began running up the slope, shouting, 
“Follow me!” 

Reaching the crest of the hill ahead of the others, he took 
time for a glance through the woods. Sure enough, torches 
bobbed up and down and flickered in and out as they passed 
between tree trunks. And there were drums beating some- 
where on the island. 

Lady Luck shot out of the woods, leaped upon Green’s knee, 
scaled his shirt front and came to rest upon his shoulder. “Ah, 
you wandering wench, you,” he said, “I knew you couldn’t 
stay away from my irresistible charm, now could you?” 

Lady Luck didn’t reply but gazed anxiously at the forest. 

“Never fear, my pretty little one,” he said. ‘They’ll not 
touch a hair of my fine blond head. Nor a silky black one of 

By then the others, puffing and panting, had gained the top 
of the hill. He set them to pushing on the stern of a yacht, 
and in a minute they had sent it headlong down the hill. When 
it rushed over the edge and disappeared with a crash on the 
plain below they had all they could do to restrain their cheers. 


Small revenge for the suffering they’d had to undergo. But it 
was something. 

“Now for the other,” said Green. “Then everybody run as 
if the demons of Gil-Ka-Ku were on your tails!” 

Grunting, they pushed the last ’roller up the little incline, 
then gathered their strength for the final heave that would 
launch it, too, upon its last voyage. 

And at that moment some savages who’d been running ahead 
of the torch-bearers burst out of the woods. 

Green took one look and realized that they would get be- 
tween the edge of the island and his party. There were about 
ten of them; they not only outnumbered his own force but 
were strong men against women. And they had spears, where- 
as his people were armed mainly with cutlasses. 

Green didn’t waste any time in meditation. “Everybody 
aboard except Miran and me!” he said loudly. “Don’t arguel 
Get in! We’re riding through them! Lie flat on the deck!” 

Screaming, the women scrambled over the low rail and onto 
the deck. As soon as the last one was on, the Earthman and 
Miran put their shoulders to the stem and pushed. For a 
second it looked as though their combined strength would not 
be enough, as if the party should have shoved the craft a 
little further over the lip of the hill before stopping. 

“There’s not time to get them out again to help us!” panted 
Green. “Dig in, Miran, get that fat into gear, shove, damn 
you, shove!” 

It seemed to him that he was breaking his own collarbone 
under the pressure and that he’d never felt such hard and 
cutting wood in all his life. And it seemed that the ’roller was 
stubbornly refusing to move until the cannibals arrived in 
time to save it, like the Marines. His legs quivered, and his 
intestines, he was sure, were writhing about like snakes, strik- 
ing here and there against the wall of his belly, seeking a weak 
place where they might erupt through into the open air and 
leave this man who subjected them to such toil. 

- There was a shout from the warriors assembled below and 
a thud of their feet as they charged up. 

“Now or never!” shouted Green. 

His face felt like one big blood vessel, and he was sure that 
be was going to blow his top, literally. But the ’roller moved 


forward, crept slowly, groaned — or was that he? — and began 
moving swiftly, too swiftly, down the slope. Too swiftly, be- 
cause he had to run after it, grab the taffrail and haul himself 
over. And while he was doing that he had to extend a hand 
to Miran, who wasn’t as fast on his feet. 

Fortunately Amra had presence of mind enough to grab 
Miran by the shoulder of his shirt and help pull. Over the rail 
he came, crying out in pain as his big stomach burned against 
the hard mahogany, but not forgetting the bag of jewels 
clutched in his hand. 

Lady Luck had already deserted her post on Green’s shoul- 
der when he began pushing. Now she meowed softly and 
pressed against him, scared at the shaking of the deck and the 
rumbling of the wheels as the craft sped downhill. 

He pulled her to him in the protection of the crook of his 
arm, and reared up on his elbow to see what he could see. 
What he saw was a spear flying straight at him. It shot by so 
close he fancied he could feel the sharp edge of its blade 
graze him, and there was nothing of his imagination about the 
woman’s scream that rose immediately afterward. It sounded 
so much like Amra that he was sure she’d been hit; however, 
he had no time to turn and And out. An islander had ap- 
peared by the side of the yacht, and as the deck was on a 
level with his chest, the fellow could see them all easily 
enough. His arm flew back, then leaped forward, and the spear 
he held darted straight at Green. 

No, not at him, but at Lady Luck. Another warrior, a little 
further down the slope, screaming something, also thrust at 
the cat. Evidently felines were no longer taboo upon this 
island. The former worshipers considered that their totem had 
deserted them and therefore deserved death. 

Lady Luck, however, had the traditional nine lives. None 
of the razor sharp blades came very close to her. And in the 
next few seconds the savages were left howling upon the slope 
or lying unconscious on the spot where the ’roller had struck 
them. The vessel sped down the steep incline, bumped hard 
as it roared out upon the stone shelf, and flew into the air. 
Green flattened himself out against the deck, hoping thus to 
dampen the effect of the three-foot drop onto the plain. 


Somehow he became separated from the deck, was floating in 
the air, and saw the planks rushing up at him. 

There was a brief interlude of darkness before Green awoke 
and realized that the meeting of the deck and his face had 
done the latter no good at all and might have resulted in con- 
siderable damage. He was sure of it when he spit out his 
two front teeth. However, his pain was overwhelmed in the 
rush of joy at having escaped. For the island was retreating 
across the flat, moonlit Xurdimur while its inhabitants screamed 
and jumped with fury and frustration on the rim, unable to 
bring themselves to leap after the refugees. Home was where 
the island was, and they weren’t going to get left behind for 
the sake of revenge. 

“I hope the Vings exterminate you tomorrow,” muttered 
Green. Wearily and painfully, he rose to his feet and surveyed 
what was left of the Clan Effenycan. Amra was unhurt. If it 
was she who’d screamed when the spear had passed over 
Green, she’d done it from fright. The spear itself was sticking 
out from the base of the mast, its head half-buried in the wood. 

He climbed over the side and inspected the damage done by 
the three-foot drop. One of the wheels had fallen off, and an 
axle was bent. Shaking his head, he spoke to the others, “This 
roller is done for. Let’s start walking. We’ve a boat to catch.” 


Two weeks later the yacht was scudding along under a 
twenty-mile-an-hour wind. It was high noon, and everybody 
except the helmsmen, Amra and Miran was eating. They were 
lunching on steaks carved from a hoober which Green had shot 
from the deck and which had been cooked on the fireplace 
placed under a hood immediately aft of the small foredeck. 
There was no lack of food despite the fact that the yacht had 
not been stocked. Fortunately the savages who’d owned it 
had not bothered to remove the several pistols and the keg 
of powder and sack of balls from its locker. With this Green 
killed enough deer and hoobers to keep everybody well fed. 


Amra supplemented their protein diet with grass which her 
culinary art turned into a halfway decent salad. At times, 
when they neared a grove of trees, Green would stop the 
yacht. They would go foraging for berries and for a large plant 
which could be beaten until soft, mixed with water, kneaded 
and baked into a kind of bread. 

Once, a grass cat dashed out from behind a tree, making 
straight for Inzax. Green and Miran, both firing at the same 
time, crumpled it within ten yards of the little blonde. 

The grass cats, big cheetah-like creatures with long slim 
legs built for running, were only a peril when the party left 
the yacht. Though fully capable of leaping aboard when the 
’roller was in movement, they never did. Sometimes they 
might pace it for a mile or so, then they would contemptuously 
walk away. 

Green wished he could say the same for the dire dogs. 
These were almost as large as the grass cats and ran in packs 
of from six to twelve. Sinister-looking with their gray-and-black 
spotted coats, pointed wolfish ears and massive jaws, they 
would run up to the very wheels, howling and snapping with 
their monstrous yellow fangs. Then one would be inspired with 
the idea of leaping aboard and finding out how the occupants 
tasted. Up he would come, easily sailing over the railing. 
Usually the occupants would discourage him with a well- 
placed thrust from a spear or an amputating swing of a cutlass. 
Sometimes they missed, and he would land on the deck, which 
enabled the sailors to try again, with better success. Back over 
the rail his body would go, back to his fellows, many of 
whom would stop the chase to devour their dead comrade. 
Those who persisted in the hunt would then try their luck, 
bounding upon the yacht, snarling hideously, trying to scare 
their quarry into a complete paralysis and sometimes suc- 

No lives were lost to the dire dogs, but almost everybody 
bore scars. Only Lady Luck managed to stay unscathed. Every 
time she heard their distant howling she scaled the mast and 
would not come down until the danger #as over. 

Today they’d not been bothered. Everybody relaxed, chat- 
tering and munching happily the unexciting but nutritious 
meat of the hoober. Miran stood upon the foredeck, sighting 


at the sun through his sextant. This also had been found in 
the locker, along with some charts of the Xurdimur. Though 
the charts had had their locations marked in an alphabet un- 
known to anybody aboard, Miran had been able to compare 
them in his mind to the charts he’d left on the Bird of Fortune. 
He had crossed out the foreign names and put in names in 
the Kilkrzan alphabet. He’d done this only at the insistence of 
Green, who didn’t trust Miran to translate for him and wanted 
to be able to read the maps himself. Not only that, he’d 
forced the fat merchant to teach both him and Amra how 
to use the clumsy and complicated but fairly accurate sextant. 

A few days later, after Green and his wife had begun to 
study the navigation instrument, there occurred the accident 
that forced Green to take further measures to safeguard him- 
self. He and Miran had been standing at the stem, ready with 
their pistols while Amra steered the yacht toward a group of 
hoobers. They were going through their usual maneuver of 
running down a herd until the exhausted animals could be 
overtaken. Just as they neared an orange-colored stallion, 
galloping furiously, Green raised his pistol. At the same time 
he was vaguely aware that Miran had also sighted but had 
stepped back, behind and to one side of him. Sensitive about 
wasting any of the valuable ammunition, Green had turned his 
head to warn Miran not to shoot unless he, Green, missed. 
It was then that he saw the muzzle swerving toward the back 
of his head. He ducked, fully expecting to get his brains blown 
out before he could shout a warning. But Miran, seeing his 
reaction, lowered the muzzle and puzzledly asked Green what 
he was doing. 

Green didn’t answer. Instead he took the gun away from 
Miran’s limp grip and silently put it away in the locker. Neither 
he nor the merchant ever referred to the incident, nor did 
Miran ask why he was not permitted to take part in any 
shooting thereafter. That convinced Green that the fellow 
had fully intended to shoot him. And then claim to the others 
that it had been an accident. 

To forestall any more attempts at “accidents” Green told 
Amra that if he were to disappear some dark night, she was 
to see that a certain person was shot and thrown overboard. 
He did not name the certain person, but he mentioned his sex 


and as Miran was the only other man on the yacht, there was 
no doubt about to whom he referred. Thereafter, Miran was 
most cooperative, always smiling and joking. However, Green 
caught him now and then with frowning brows and a thought- 
ful expression. He was either fingering his stiletto or the bag 
of jewels he carried inside his shirt. Green could imagine that 
he was planning something for the day they reached Estorya. 

Now, on this day two weeks after they’d left the island, 
Miran was shooting the sun, and Green was waiting until he 
was through, so he could check on him. If his calculations 
were correct the yacht should be directly east of Estorya two 
hundred miles. If they maintained their average rate of twenty- 
five miles an hour they’d reach the windbreak in a little over 
eight hours. 

The fat merchant quit looking through the eyepiece of his 
instrument and walked to the cockpit where his charts and 
papers were. Green took the sextant from him and made his 
own observations, then checked with Miran in the narrow and 
crowded cockpit. 

“We agree,” said Green, indicating with the pencil tip a 
round scarlet spot on the chart. “We should be sighting this 
island within four hours.” 

“Yes,” replied Miran. “That is an old landmark. It has been 
there a hundred miles due east of Estorya since before my 
grandfather’s time. It was once a roaming island, but it long 
ago quit moving and has stayed in that one spot. That is 
nothing unusual. Every captain knows of these fixed islands 
scattered all over the Xurdimur, and every now and then we 
have to add a new red mark to our charts because one of the 
roamers has settled down.” 

He paused, then added a statement that set Green’s heart 
to beating fast. 

“The unusual thing about this island is that it did not stop 
of its own accord. It was halted by the magic of the Estoryans, 
and it has been kept in that one place ever since by their 

“What do you mean?” asked Green, eagerly. 

Miran’s round, pale-blue eye stared at him blankly. 

“What do you mean what do I mean? I mean just what I 
said, nothing more.” 


“I mean, what magic did they contrive to halt this roamer?” 
“Why, they put up certain peculiar towers in its path, and 
when the island began going backwards to get out of the trap 
and go around it, they moved other towers to block its re- 
treat. These towers moved fast on many well-greased wheels. 
Once the circle was completed the island couldn’t move. Nor 
has it been able to move since.” 

“These towers intrigue me. How did the Estoryans know 
how to halt these islands? And if they’ve succeeded with one, 
why not with the others?” 

“I do not know. Perhaps because the towers are huge and 
costly and don’t move too fast. Perhaps it is not worthwhile to 
the Estoryans to capture many. As for their knowledge, I think 
they got it from their ancestors. It was their great-great-great- 
and-then-some-grandfathers who originally built Estorya in the 
middle of the plain and protected it from being crushed by 
these islands by placing these many towers all around their 
city. But it cost them much wood and time, and perhaps they 
lost interest after that.” 

Miran indicated a castle inked in beside the red spot. 
“That castle means that a military or naval fortification 
has been built there on the island. It is the furtherest eastern 
garrison of the Estoryans. When we come within sighting dis- 
tance of it we are supposed to report. Of course, if you wish to 
avoid it, we may sail to the north or south and swing around 
it. But then we will have to report to the windbreak master 
of the city itself, and they are rather hostile to captains who 
have failed to have their papers checked at the fort of Shim- 
doog. Even if the craft is such a small and weak one as this. The 
Estoryans are a suspicious people.” 

Yes, thought Green, and I’ll bet that you intend to inflate 
their distrust with certain information about me. 

He rose from the cockpit, and at the same time he heard 
Amra hail him from her station at the helm. 

“Island on the horizon,” she said. “And many glittering 
white objects placed before it.” 

Green refrained from comment. But he had a hard time 
concealing his excitement, which grew with every turn of the 
wheels. He paced back and forth, stopping now and then to 
shade his eyes and look long at the white towers. Finally, as 


they got so near that he could no longer be mistaken about 
their size or the details of their peculiar structure, he could 
contain himself no longer. 

He whooped with joy and kissed Amra on the cheek and 
danced around and around the foredeck while the women 
stared with embarrassment and concern and the children 
giggled, all wondering if he’d gone mad. 

“Spaceships! Spaceships!” he howled in English. “Dozens 
of them! It must be an expedition! I’m saved, saved! Space- 
ships, spaceships!” 


They were a magnificent sight, those many cones pointing 
their skyscraping noses upward and their spreading landing 
struts sinking into the soft earth! Their white eternum metal 
gleamed in the sun, dazzling the spectator who happened to 
catch their radiance full in the eyes. They were glorious, em- 
bodying all the vast wisdom and skill of the greatest civiliza- 
tion of the Galaxy. 

No wonder, thought Green, that I dance and howl while 
these people look at me if I’m mad, and Amra, tears in her 
eyes, shakes her head and says something to herself. What can 
they know of the meaning of those splendors? 

What, indeed? 

“Hey,” shouted Green, “Hey! Here I am! An Earthman! 
Maybe I look like one of these barbarians, with my long 
hair and bushy beard and dirty skin, but I’m not. I’m Alan 
Green, an Earthman!” 

Of course, they couldn’t have heard him at that distance, 
even if somebody had been standing beneath the spaceships 
to hear him. But he howled with sheer exuberance, not worry- 
ing about wasting his breath and making himself hoarse. 

Finally Amra interrupted him. 

“What is the matter, Alan? Have you been bitten by the 
Green Bird of Happiness, which sometimes flies over these 
plains? Or has the White Bird of Terror nipped you while 
you slept last night upon the open deck?” 


Green paused and looked steadily at her. Could he tell her 
the truth, now he was so near salvation? It was not that he was 
worried about her or the others stopping him from making 
contact with the expedition. Nothing could stop him now, he 
was sure of that. 

It was just that he hesitated to tell her that he would be 
leaving her. The idea of hurting her was agony to him. 

He started to speak in English, caught himself, and switched 
to her language. ‘Those vessels — they have brought my peo- 
ple from across the space between the stars. I came to this 
world in just such a vessel, a spaceroller, you might say. My 
ship crashed, and I was forced to descend upon this — your — 
world. Then, I heard that another ship had landed near Es- 
torya and that King Raussmig had put the crew in prison and 
was going to sacrifice them during the Festival of the Sun’s 
Eye. I had little time to get to Estorya before that happened, 
so I talked Miran into taking me. That was why I left you, 
that . . .” 

He trailed off because he did not understand the expression 
upon her face. It was not the great hurt he’d expected, nor 
the wild fury he thought might result from his explanation. 
If anything, she looked pitying. 

“Why, Alan, whatever are you talking about?” 

He pointed at the line of spaceships. 

‘They’re from Terra, my home planet.” 

“I don’t understand what you mean by your home planet,” 
she replied still pityingly. “But those are not spaceships. Those 
are the towers built by the Estoryans a thousand years ago.” 

“Wha-what do you mean?” 

Stunned, he looked at them again. If those weren’t star- 
ships he’d eat the yacht’s canvas. Yes, and the wheels, too. 

Under the swift wind, the ’roller swept closer and closer 
while he stood behind Amra and thought that he’d break into 
little pieces if his tension didn’t find some release. 

Finally it did find an outlet. Tears welled in his eyes, and he 
choked. His breast seemed as if it would swell up and burst. 

How cleverly the ancient builders had fashioned those 
towers! The landing struts, the big fins, the long sweeping lines 
ending in the pointed nose, all must have been built with a 


spaceship as a model. There was no escaping such a con- 
clusion; coincidence couldn’t explain it. 

Amra said, “Don’t cry, Alan. Your people will think you 
weak. Captains don’t weep.” 

“This captain does,” he replied, and he turned and walked 
the length of the yacht to the stern and leaned over the tafl- 
rail where no one could see him as he shook with sobs. 

Presently he felt a hand upon his. 

“Alan,” she said gently. “Tell me the truth. If those had been 
ships on which you could leave this world and travel into the 
skies, would you have taken me along? Were you still think- 
ing that I was not — not good enough for you?” 

“Let’s not talk about it now,” he said. “I can’t. Besides, 
there are too many people listening. Later, when everybody’s 

“All right, Alan.” 

She released his hand and left him alone, knowing that that 
was what he wanted. Mentally, he thanked her for it, because he 
knew what it was costing her to exercise restraint. At any 
other time, in a like situation, she would have thrown some- 
thing at him. 

After he had calmed down somewhat he returned to the 
helm and took over from Miran. From then on he was too 
busy to think much about his disappointment. He had to re- 
port to the port officer and tell his story, which took hours, 
for the officer called in the others to hear his amazing tale. 
And they questioned Miran and Amra. Green anxiously 
listened to the merchant’s account, fearful that the fellow 
would disclose his suspicions that Green was not what he 
claimed to be. If Miran had any such intentions, however, 
he was saving them for their arrival in Estorya itself. 

The officers all agreed that they had heard many wonderful 
stories from sailors but never anything to match this. They 
insisted upon giving a banquet for Miran and Green. The re- 
sult was that Green got a much-needed and desired bath, hair 
cut and shave. But he also had to endure a long feast in which 
he had to stuff himself to keep from offending his hosts and 
also was forced to enter a drinking contest with some of the 
younger blades of the post. His Vigilante could handle enor- 
mous amounts of food and alcohol, so that Green appeared to 


the soldiers to be something of a superman. At midnight the 
last officer had dropped his head upon the table, dead drunk, 
and Green was able to get up and go to his yacht. 

Unfortunately he had to carry the fat merchant out on his 
shoulders. Outside the banquet room he found a few rickshaw 
boys standing around a fire, huddled together, waiting for a 
customer so drunk he wouldn’t fear thieves or ghosts. He gave 
one of them a coin and told him to deliver Miran to the yacht. 

“What about yourself, honored sir7 Don’t you wish to ride 
home, too?” 

“Later,” said Green, looking up past the fort and at the hills 
behind it. “I intend to take a walk to clear my head.” 

Before the rickshaw men could question him further he 
plunged into the darkness and began striding swiftly toward 
the highest peak upon the island. 

Two hours later he suddenly appeared in the moonlight- 
drenched windbreak, walked past the many vessels tied down 
for the night and crawled aboard his own yacht. A glance 
around the deck convinced him that everybody was sleeping. 
He stepped softly past the prostrate forms and lay down by 
Amra. Face up, his hands behind his head, he stared at the 
moon, a thoughtful expression upon his face. 

Amra whispered, “Alan, I thought you were going to talk 
to me tonight.” 

He stiffened but did not turn his head to look at her. 

“I was, but the officers kept us up late. Didn’t Miran get 

“Yes, about five minutes before you did.” 

He rose on one elbow and looked searchingly at her. 

“Is there anything strange about that?” 

“Only that he was so drunk he’d passed out and was snoring 
like a pig. The fat son of an izzotl He must have been faking I 
And he must have . . .” 

“Must have what?” 

Green shrugged. “I don’t know.” 

He couldn’t tell her that Miran must have followed him up 
into the hills. And that if he had the fellow must have seen 
some very disturbing things. 

He stood up and gazed intently at the dark forms stretched 


out here and there. Miran was sleeping upon a blanket behind 
the helm. Or was pretending to do so. 

Should he kill him? If Miran turned him in to the authori- 
ties in Estorya . . . 

He sat down again and fingered his dagger. 

Amra must have guessed his thoughts, for she said, “Why 
do you want to kill him?” 

“You know why. Because he could have me burned.” 

She sucked her breath in with a hiss. 

“Alan, it can’t be true! You can’t be a demon!” 

To him the accusation was so ridiculous that he didn’t bother 
to answer. He should have known better, because he was well 
aware of how seriously these people took such things. How- 
ever, he was thinking so furiously about what he could do to 
forestall Miran, that he completely forgot about her. Not un- 
til he heard her muffled sobs did he come out of his reverie. 
Surprised, he said, “Don’t worry. They’re not going to burn 

__ _ tj 


“No, they’re not,” she said, choking on every other word. 
“I don’t care if you are a demon. I love you, and I’d go to hell 
for you or with you!” 

It took him a few seconds to understand that she did be- 
lieve he was a demon and that it made no difference to her. 
Or, rather, she was determined to ignore the difference. What 
a sacrifice of her natural feelings she must have made for him! 
She, like everybody upon this world, had been trained from 
childhood to develop a fierce disgust and horror of devils and 
to be always upon her guard for them when they appeared in 
human form. What an abyss she had to cross in order to con- 
quer her deep revulsion! In a way, her feat was greater than 
crossing the chasm between the stars. 

“Amra,” he said, deeply touched, and he bent down to kiss 

To his surprise she turned her face away. 

“You know my lips don’t belch fire, like the devils’ in the 
legends,” he said, half-jestingly, half-pityingly. “Nor will I 
suck your soul into my mouth.” 

“You have already done that,” she said, still not facing him. 

“Oh, Amra!” 

“Yes, you have! Else why should I follow you when you 


deserted me to run away on the Bird? And why should I still 
want to follow you, to be with you, even if those towers had 
turned out to be your what-do-you-call-’em? and you had 
sailed away into the skies on them? Why would any decent 
human woman want to do that? Tell met” 

She, too, rose on an elbow, her face now turned to him. He 
scarcely recognized her, her features were so twisted and her 
skin was so livid. 

“A hundred times during this voyage I’ve wished you would 
die. Why? Because then I wouldn’t have to think about the 
time to come when you would leave this world forever, leave 
me forever! But when you were in danger, then I almost died, 
too, and I knew I didn’t really wish your death. It was just 
wounded pride on my part. And I couldn’t face the moment of 
your departure! Or the fact that you must come from a supe- 
rior race, a people more like gods than demons! 

"Oh, I didn’t know what to think! Whether you were a devil, 
or a god, or just a man who was somehow more of a man 
than any I knew. I could ignore such things as your wounds 
healing up faster than they should and scar tissues disappear- 
ing. But I couldn’t ignore your knowledge that Aga would be 
killed if she touched that wall in the room on the cannibals’ 
island. Nor the fact that your teeth grew back in after they 
were knocked out during the escape from the island. Nor your 
too obvious interest in those two demons held prisoner in Es- 
torya. Or . . 

“Not so loud, Amra,” he interrupted. “You’ll wake every- 
body up.” 

“All right, all right. Better to keep quiet and pretend to be 
stupid. But I can’t, I’m not built that way. So . . . what are you 
going to do, Alan?” 

“Do? Do?” he repeated miserably. “Why, somehow or other 
I’m going to free those two poor devils and escape in their 

“Devils? Then they are demons!” 

“Oh, no, that was just a manner of speaking. I said poor 
devils because of what they must have gone through in that 
barbarous prison. They might as well have been in the hands 
of the cannibals as at the mercy of the priests of this wretched 


“Yes, that’s what you really think of us, isn’t it? That we’re 
all murderous, dirty and stinking savages.” 

“Oh, not all of you,” he replied. “You’re not, Amra. By any 
standards, you’re a wonderful woman.” 

“Then why can’t . . ?” 

She bit her lip and turned away from him. She would not 
humble herself by asking him to take her with him. It was 
up to him to make the offer. 

Green did not know what to say, though he knew that it was 
necessary to say something at once. 

He just could not make up his mind as to how she would 
fit into Earth civilization. 

How could he teach her that if somebody whom you didn’t 
like differed with you, you just didn’t try to tear them apart? 
Or that if the person you hated was too powerful for you to 
settle matters with personally you didn’t resort to professional 

How could he teach her to love the same things he did, the 
music and literature of his own culture? Her roots were in an 
entirely different culture. She couldn’t possibly understand 
what he understood, thrill to that which thrilled him, catch 
the subtleties that he caught, see what lay behind the nuances 
of his civilization. She’d be a stranger in a world not made for 

Of course, he thought, there were plenty of women upon 
Earth and her star-colonies who didn’t share his culture, even 
if they’d been brought up in it. But their case was simply a 
matter of taste. And they could still share a certain amount 
with him, just because they’d breathed the same atmosphere 
and talked the same words as he. Not that he would have 
cared to live with them, because he wouldn’t. But Amra, de- 
sirable in so many ways, just would not understand what was 
taking place around her or in the minds of those she would 
have to live with. 

He looked down at Amra. Her back was turned, and she 
seemed to be breathing the easy breath of deep sleep. Though 
he doubted very much that she could be sleeping, he decided 
to accept things as they looked. He wouldn’t answer her now, 
though he knew that when morning came her eyes would be 
asking the same question, even if she didn’t voice it. 


At least, he thought, she’d been diverted from her curiosity 
about what he’d been doing that night. That was something. 
He didn’t want anybody to know about that. Not until the time 
for action came. 

Provided, that is, that he could do anything even then. He’d 
discovered certain things tonight that could mean his salvation 
if he could utilize them. 

That was the rub, as some poet or other had once said. 

Wondering just who had originated that saying, he fell 
asleep. Woolgathering had always been a favorite occupation 
of his when people left him alone to do it. That was the rub. 
They didn’t. 


Shortly after dawn the yacht set sail and sped toward Es- 
torya, a hundred miles west. The breeze was a strong thirty- 
five miles an hour, precursor of the violent winds that roared 
across the Xurdimur during the rainy season. Green set every 
inch of sail he had and took over the helm himself. Steering 
was not as simple as it had been, for traffic was getting heavy. 
In an hour he saw no less than forty ’rollers, ranging in size 
from small merchants not much larger than his own craft to 
tremendous three-decker ’rollers-of-the-line from far-off 
Batrim, convoying even larger merchant vessels, high-pooped 
and richly decorated. Then, as they came to within fifty miles 
of their destination, small pleasure yachts appeared in increas- 
ing numbers. And by the time they saw the white rocket- 
shaped towers that stretched from horizon to horizon, Green 
was sweating at the manner in which craft were shooting back 
and forth in front of him. 

Miran said, “The entire nation is surrounded by these white 
towers and by many fortresses interspersed between them. In- 
side the great circle of towers the Estoryans have many rich 
farms on the plains. The city proper, however, is built on 
three roaming islands that were captured by their magic many 
centuries ago.” 


Green raised his eyebrows at this information. “Indeed? 
And where is the vessel that brought the two demons down 
from the skies?” 

Miran looked blankly at the Earthman, though he knew 
well enough that he was keenly interested in the so-called 

“Oh, it is located close to the palace of the king himself, 
but not on the hills. It landed on the plain.” 

“Hmm. And the strangers will be burned during the Festival 
of the Eye of the Sun?” 

“If they have lived, they will be.” 

Green didn’t like to think about their dying. If they had, 
then his problem was solved. He stayed upon this planet and 
did the best he could here. 

There was one thing he had to admit. That was that having 
Amra as his wife made such an event not so calamitous as it 
might have been. She’d keep him so interested that time would 
pass swiftly, even on this barbarous place. 

In that case, he thought, why was he hesitating about taking 
her to Earth, if he got the chance? No matter where he was 
she’d see that life was a whirlpool of action. And she’d only 
begun to disclose the deeps within her. Give her an education, 
and what a creature might evolve! 

What’s the matter with you, Green? he said to himself. 
Don’t you know your own mind? Are you so capable at han- 
dling physical events but a complete muckup when it comes to 
psychical? Why . . ? 

“Look out!” cried Miran, and Green threw the helm hard 
aport to avoid crashing into a small freighter. The captain, 
standing on the foredeck behind his own helmsman, leaned 
over the rail and shook his fist at Green and cursed. Green 
cursed back but after that he didn’t allow himself to begin 
thinking about Amra until he had steered the ’roller into the 

The rest of the day he was busy getting cleared with the port 
authorities. Fortunately he had a letter from the officer of the 
island-fortress. It explained why he happened to be in posses- 
sion of a foreign craft and also recommended that Green be 
given a chance to sign up in the Estoryan ’roller-fleet if he 
wished. Even so, he had to tell his story so many times to an 


admiring and amazingly credulous audience that it was dusk 
before he could get free. Outside the customs building he found 
Grizquetr waiting for him. 

“Where’s your mother?” he- asked. 

“Oh, she knew you’d be tied up for a long time, so she went 
ahead and got a room in an inn. They’re very hard to get dur- 
ing the Festival, almost impossible. But you know Mother,” 
said Grizquetr, winking. “She gets what she goes after, every 

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Well, where’s this inn?” 

“It’s clear across town, but it’s within sight of the wall that’s 
built around the demons’ skyship.” 

“Wonderful! Rooms must be twice as difficult to get there 
as on the edge of town. How did Amra do it?” 

“She gave the innkeeper three times his asking price, which 
was high enough. And he found a pretext to quarrel with a man 
who had long ago reserved a room, threw him out and gave it 
to us!” 

“Ah? And where did she get this money?” 

“She sold a ruby to a jeweler who kept shop close to the 
’break. He’s sort of shady, I guess, and he didn’t give Mother 
what the ruby was worth.” 

“Now, where would she get a ruby or any kind of jewel?” 

Grizquetr grinned crookedly but delightedly. “Oh, I imagine 
that a certain fat one-eyed merchant-captain who shall remain 
nameless must have had one or two rubies within that bag he 
keeps inside his shirt.” 

“Yes, I can imagine. The question that alarms me is how 
did she get it off Miran? He’d sooner lose a quart of blood 
than one of his precious jewels. And he’d notice its loss quicker 
than he would the blood.” 

Grizquetr looked thoughtful. “I really don’t know. Mother 
didn’t say.” 

He brightened with a smile and said, “But I’d like to know 
how she did it! Maybe she’ll teach me some day.” 

“She seems to have a lot to teach both of us,” said Green. 

He sighed. “Well, I’m eternally indebted to her. No getting 
out of it. Let’s call a rickshaw and see what kind of a place 
she has selected.” 

Once both had settled in the high-backed chair of their 


vehicle, and the two men who pulled it had begun their slow 
trotting through the crowded streets, Green said, “Have you 
any idea where Miran is?” 

“Some. He was detained by the port-officers, too, because 
he had to explain what had happened to his ’roller. Then he 
called a rickshaw and left in a big hurry. He had an officer 
with him. Not a naval officer. A soldier from the palace, one 
of the King’s Own.” 

Green felt a sinking sensation. “Already? Tell me, does he 
know where we are staying?” 

“Oh, no. When I saw him coming out of the customshouse, 
I hid behind a bale of cotton. Mother had told me to stay out 
of his sight. She explained how treacherous he is, and how 
he hates you because he thinks you brought all his bad luck 
upon him.” 

“That’s only the half of it,” Green replied. He was silent 
for a while, thinking, his gaze roving idly over the crowds. 
There were many foreigners in town, sailors from every na- 
tion that had a border on the Xurdimur, pilgrims who belonged 
to the far-flung cult of the Fish Goddess and had come here 
for the Festival. The majority, however, were Estoryans, a 
fairly tall people, brown or red-haired, green or blue-eyed, 
with big noses, thick lips and a slight epicanthic fold. They 
spoke a guttural polysyllabic semi-analytic language. They 
wore broad-rimmed hats shaped like open umbrellas, tight- 
necked shirts with long stringties and pants that were skin- 
tight from crotch to knee, then ballooned out into many 
ruffles. Little bells tinkled on their ankles, and the women car- 
ried canes. All had a fish, a star, or a rocket-shaped tower 
tattooed on their cheeks. 

Along the narrow winding street were many little shops, 
flowering with a variety of articles. Green was intrigued by 
the magical charms being hawked everywhere. Many of these 
were little towers, replicas of the large ones that encircled the 
country. On Earth they could have passed for toy spaceships. 
He bought one. It was made of white-painted wood and was 
about seven inches long. The big flaring fins and landing 
struts were well reproduced, but there weren’t any of the fine 
details that he could have found in such a toy on Earth. There 


were no holes in the stern or nose for the drive-exhaust or any 
indications of doors or detector apparatus. 

He gave it to Grizquetr and leaned back to do some more 
thinking. The charm hadn’t disappointed him, because he had 
not expected any more than what he’d seen. If, in the begin- 
ning, those models had been furnished with every little detail, 
the passage of many thousands of years would have seen them 
blunted and reduced to their present state of fuzzy symbolic 
images. Time ate down to the skeleton of things. 

He wondered how the charm could have survived up to the 
present, because it surely must have been over twenty thou- 
sand years ago that the prototype, the real spaceship, disap- 
peared and man sank back to savagery again. Then, why had 
this lasted here, whereas it had not done so on other planets, 
Earth included? 

Abruptly, he noticed that his rickshaw had stopped. 

“A procession of priests, going to the palace of the King, 
where they will spend all night preaching to the demon,” said 
one of their rickshaw boys. He yawned and stretched. “I sup- 
pose that it will be a fine burning, since the priests have pre- 
dicted that the sun will shine at high noon. They are safe 
doing that, as it has not failed to shine on Festival Day for 
a thousand years.” 

Green leaned forward, his hands gripping the sides of his 
chair, and said, “Demon? You meant demons, didn’t you? 
Weren’t there two of them?” 

“Oh yes, there were. But one died two days ago. Hung 
himself, I heard, though I can’t swear to it since the priests 
have released no details. The holy ones have been giving the 
demons a rough time.” 

“Demons?” said Grizquetr, snorting with disbelief and dis- 
gust. “Doesn’t the very fact that one killed himself prove 
they’re not fiends? Everyone knows that a demon can’t kill 

“Quite true, my small friend,” replied the taxi man. “The 
priests have admitted their error. They are truly sorry — so 
they say.” 

“Then aren’t they letting the other man loose?” 

“Oh no. Because he may still be a demon. Tomorrow, at 
high noon, the prisoner goes under the Sun’s Eye and there 


meets the only death a demon may know. By fire he was born, 
by fire he shall perish. Chapter Twenty, Verse Sixty-Two. Or 
so I remember the High Grauchning saying in his sermon yes- 
terday. Myself, I’m not much for reading. Too busy making a 
living, running my legs off, killing myself so my wife and kids 
may eat and have clothes on their backs.” 

Green scarcely heard the garrulous rickshaw man, so 
shocked was he at the news. Had he been too late? What if 
the man who’d died was the pilot and the other one unable 
to handle the ship? 

The rest of the ride he was sunk in such deep gloom he hard- 
ly saw any of the many sights that Grizquetr kept pointing out. 
But he did rouse when the boy said, “Look, Father, there’s 
the King’s palace, on top of the hill! Beyond that is the ship 
of the demon. You can’t see it from here, but you will tomor- 
row when you go to the burning.” 

“Don’t be so heartless,” said Green, but he looked carefully 
at the great marble structure that rambled all over the hill. 
Somewhere below that, probably filled with dirt, undoubtedly 
forgotten, was just such an entrance as he’d found on the is- 
land of the cannibals. He’d also discovered a similar one upon 
the fortress of Shimdoog, the night before when he’d gone ex- 
ploring and Miran had followed him. 

The palace, he thought, looked quite romantic and beauti- 
ful, enveloped in a dim red haze cast by the setting sun, which 
lay directly behind it. Probably it would look different in the 
harsh glare of day, when the dirt and garbage would be so 

The area in which Amra had rented the room was one which 
had once belonged to the rich and the noble but had decayed 
when the aristocracy moved their homes elsewhere. The inn 
before which the rickshaw boys stopped was a three-story 
pile of granite blocks. It had an enormous porch and six huge 
pillars in the images of the Fish Goddess. Green could not 
help admiring the building even in its present state of decay, 
because he knew that it must have cost a fortune to build it. 
The granite would have had to be transported by Toller across 
the Xurdimur, since there would be no stone in this neighbor- 
hood. He imagined that the landlord charged high rents and 
that Amra must have paid a pretty price indeed if she’d given 


him three times the usual amount. One thing you could say for 
her, when she traveled she did it in style. 

The caryatids of the Fish Goddess also interested him, and 
at another time he’d have examined them closely by the light 
of the torches in the hands of the servants standing by them. 
The cult of the Goddess indicated that the original Estoryans 
must have migrated from the oceanside to the center of the 
vast and level plains. And here they must have built this im- 
posing city, which was to become such a great focus of trade. 
Its central location made it a great clearing house for goods 
from every country bordering the Xurdimur. 

He wondered whether it was pure accident that they had 
brought with them the charms in the shapes of spaceships? 
And if they’d also accidentally discovered that towers modeled 
after the charms would stop the roaming islands? 

Whatever the answer, it lay buried in the prehistoric. 

“Hurry up,” said Grizquetr, pulling on Green’s hand. 
“Mother has a surprise for you, but don’t tell her I told you.” 

“That’s nice,” replied Green absently, his mind still upon 
the news of the Earthman’s death. Hang it all, why must he al- 
ways be kept in suspense, must always be improvising froriS* 
moment to moment, always in the dark, never knowing what 
was coming next nor what he was going to have to do? Oh, for 
one day of peace and assurance! 


“What, what?” said Green, startled out of his reverie and 
stopping halfway up the steps to the porch. Suddenly some- 
thing black and small launched itself at him and landed on his 

“Lady Luck! Why are you shivering so?” 

“Better run, Dad!” said Grizquetr. “There’s Miran coming 
out of the door! And soldiers behind him!” 

He ended with a wail, “Motherr-r-r-r!" 

The sight of Amra, Inzax, and the children being marched 
out between musketmen was enough for Green. He turned 
away and spoke softly but savagely. 

“Keep your backs to them! Don’t look back! We’re far 
enough away in the dark so they might not recognize us. Es- 
pecially in this crowd!” 

A minute later he and the boy and the cat were looking 


around the corner of a large building. They saw the soldiers 
commandeer a rickshaw and put the prisoners in it. Then 
four of them walked behind the vehicle as it was pulled away. 

“They-they’ll be put in the Tower of the Grass Cat,” said 
the boy, shaking with fury. “Oh, that devil Miranl That fat 
old devil 1 He’s the one who’s accused Mother of witchcraft! 
I know! I know!” 

“He didn’t accuse her,” said Green, “but me. She’s guilty 
through association with me. Well at least we’ll know where 
they are for a while.” 

“There go Miran and the soldiers back into the hotel.” 

“Waiting for us,” said Green. “They’ll have a long wait. 
Well, let’s go. First things first. We’ll buy a ticket, see the ship. 
I have to know where it’s located, what type it is, et cetera. 
Luckily I’ve enough money on me to do that. But we’ll be 
broke then. You have any?” 

‘Ten axar .” 

“That’s not much, but it’s enough to pay for a rickshaw 
ride to the windbreak.” 

At the box-office, Green bought two tickets, then walked 
up the steep flight of steps with Grizquetr. At the top he found 
himself in a large group standing on a platform beneath a 
wooden roof. This was for the curious who wanted to get a 
preview of the demons’ vessel. Tomorrow the gates would be 
opened to admit a vast crowd, who would sit on the hard 
wooden seats of the amphitheatre that had been built fairly 
close to the ship. 

The ship itself was an Earth naval vessel, a two-man scout. 
It pointed its needle nose upward, resting upon eight jet- 
struts, gleaming in the moonlight. Its naval insignia, a green 
globe crossed with rocket and olive branch, was a smudge in 
the shadows. Nevertheless he could make it out. He felt his 
breast swell and he choked with homesickness. 

“Ah, so near, yet so far,” he murmured. “Even if I get to 
you, then what? What if the poor devil of a survivor turns 
out to be a navigator? Still, he ought to know enough to get 
her off the ground and into space. And from there on, with 
interstellar drive, we ought to be able to get home, somehow.” 

He sounded plaintive, even to himself, for he knew how vast 
space was and how complicated astromathematics was. And 


of course there was no guarantee that the Earthman would 
even be a navigator. He might just be an officer or perhaps a 
civilian official who was being ferried in one of the swifter 
small ships. 

Then there was the awful possibility that the vessel might 
have landed here because there was something wrong with it, 
and that it could not rise again even if it had a full crew. In 
fact, that was the most logical explanation. 

He sighed and turned to the boy. 

“This may be for nothing, but we can’t just sit down and 
watch. Let’s take off for the windbreak.” 

“What are we going to do there?” asked Grizquetr, as they 
walked down the steps. 

“Well, we’re not going back to the yacht,” Green answered. 
“Soldiers’ll be waiting there to arrest us. No, we’ll go to the 
other side of the ’break. Stealing another ’roller isn’t going to 
get us in any more trouble than we’re already in.” 

The boy’s eyes widened. “What’re we doing that for?” 
“We must return to the island-fortress of Shimdoog.” 
“What? Why, that’s a hundred miles away!” 

“Yes, I know. And we won’t be able to make the speed 
going back that we did coming. We’ll have to do quite a lot 
of tacking to sail against the wind, and that’ll eat up our time. 
But there’s nothing else to do.” 

“If you say so, father, I believe you. But what is there on 

“Not on. In.” 

Grizquetr was a bright lad. He was silent for a minute, so 
silent Green could imagine he heard the wheels turning within 
his head. Then he said, “There must be a cave on Shimdoog 
like the one on the cannibals’ island. And you must have gone 
into it that night we stayed in the ’break. I remember waking 
up and hearing you and Mother say something about your 
being gone and about Miran following you.” 

Grizquetr paused, then said, “If there is a cave-entrance 
there, why haven’t other people gone into it?” 

“Because it has been declared taboo, off limits, by the 
priests of Estorya. It was done so long ago that I imagine that 
the priests themselves have forgotten why they forbade its 
access to men. But it’s not hard to reconstruct the historical 


causes. Once, I suppose, the island was populated by cannibals. 
At the time the Estoryans captured the island they extermin- 
ated the aborigines. They found the cave mouth was a holy 
place for the savages. So, thinking that it held demons — and it 
does, in a way — they built a wall around it and set up a statue 
of the Fish Goddess, facing inward and holding in her hand 
a symbol to restrain the imprisoned fiends from breaking loose. 
That symbol, of course, is the same charm that is sold on the 
streets of Estorya, that circumscribes the country and the is- 
land of Shimdoog. It is the same as the spaceship that landed 
near the King’s palace.” 

Green hailed a rickshaw and continued his account while 
they rode through the still-crowded streets. There was so much 
noise that he felt quite safe talking, provided he kept his voice 

By the time they had reached the northern end of the wind- 
break, Green had told the boy all he thought he should hear 
at that time. If, later on, his trip to Shimdoog proved suc- 
cessful he would enlighten him even more. 

For the present he was concerned with the problem of get- 
ting transportation. Fortunately they found almost at once 
a nice little yacht with speedy lines and a tall mast. The craft 
must have belonged to a wealthy man, for a watchman sat close 
to it before a little fire just outside his shed. Green walked 
up to him, and when the fellow rose, his hand suspiciously rest- 
ing upon his spear, Green struck him on the jaw, then followed 
with a hard right to the pit of his stomach. Grizquetr com- 
pleted the job by hitting him over the head with a length of 
pipe he’d picked up off the ground. 

Green emptied the handbag of the watchman and was 
pleased to see several coins of respectable denominations. 

“Probably his life-savings,” he said. “I hate to rob him, but 
we have to have money. Grizquetr, do you remember those 
slaves who were drinking and gambling outside the Striped 
Ape Inn? Run to them and offer them six danken if they’ll tow 
us out of the ’break. Tell them we’re paying them so much 
because it’s so late at night, and also to keep their mouths 

Grinning, the boy ran off. Green hauled the limp body of the 


unconscious watchman behind the hut, bound and gagged 
him and threw a tarpaulin over him. 

Grizquetr returned, leading six noisy and reeling men, 
sturdily built, with legs and backs big-muscled from hauling 

At first Green thought he ought to try to make them keep 
quiet, then decided that it would look more natural if he let 
them talk as loudly as they wished. There was a festive air 
over the city tonight, and more than one yacht was going out 
for a moonlight cruise. 

Once out on the plain. Green threw the promised money to 
the slaves and cried, “Have a good time!” To himself he mut- 
tered, “Because tomorrow may be your last day.” Already, he 
had a presentiment of what might happen if he succeeded in 
tonight’s work. There was no telling what forces he might 
be unloosing. As he’d said to the boy, there were demons im- 
prisoned in the bowels of the island of Shimdoog. 


Just before dawn the yacht coasted to a stop outside the high 
stone walls of the north side of the island of Shimdoog. Green 
had dropped the sail and, judging his speed exactly, had steered 
the craft until its side was almost scraping the wall. As soon 
as the roller stopped, Green put Lady Luck in a bag tied to his 
belt and cautioned her to keep quiet. Then he began climbing 
up the rungs nailed to the mast. The boy followed him, and 
both crawled out upon the spar. Green tied one end of a long 
rope around the end of the spar. Then he let himself down on it 
to the ground on the other side of the wall. 

After the boy had also descended they paused for a mo- 
ment, crouched, ready to run at the first sign they’d been seen. 
But there was no outcry. 

The big moon, though dropping to the horizon, was bright 
enough for them to make good progress. Green led the way 
up a series of hills, heading in a circuitous fashion toward 
the highest. Twice he had to stop and warn Grizquetr about 


the towers ahead, where sentries were stationed. Lady Luck 
seemed to know she should be silent. Her eyes glowed and 
her teeth flashed, but she was only making a soundless snarl. 

They saw the fires of the guards and heard their muttered 
voices, but none saw them. It was doubtful that the sentinels 
ever did look out, for they did not think that any man in his 
right senses would be roaming about in the darkness, where 
it was well known that ghosts and demons waited for foolish 

Just before they began climbing the slope of the peak that 
was their goal, Green whispered. “This island is built much 
like the first one we encountered. I think that all of these 
islands are more or less similar, all being composed of a base 
of a mile and a half square of eternum metal or something 
like eternum. And all covered with rock and dirt and trees and 
vegetation and stocked with birds and beasts. I suppose that the 
original builders landscaped these craft for aesthetic reasons. 
After all, a sheet of metal with a few metal chambers on it 
doesn’t look very pretty and would make a blinding glare in 
the sunshine.” 

“Uh,” replied the boy, who didn’t understand. 

“Do you know, it’s strange that I was right the first time 
when I sarcastically referred to the roaming islands as glori- 
fied lawn-mowers?” 


“Yes, in the beginning there must have been many more than 
there are now, enough to keep the vast plains looking neat and 
well-kept, the grass clipped, the forests prevented from en- 
croaching well-defined limits, and so on. But when there were 
no longer any maintenance men to keep them going, they 
stopped, one by one, until at this present time there are per- 
haps a few hundred. Though, I don’t know, there may be 
more. Anyway, whenever one did run down or break down for 
some reason or other it was soon erased by a still-functioning 


“Yes, for it’s quite obvious to me that the islands not only 
cut grass, they kept the plains free of obstructions that weren’t 
supposed to be there. And a dead island would constitute just 
such a hazard.” 


Grizquetr spoke in a thin voice, “Perhaps, Father, I may yet 
understand you. I must be stupid.” 

“Far from it. You’ll learn in time. Anyway, I should have 
known what they really were when I heard the tales of the 
sailors. Remember that one about the big hole made by the 
meteorite? And how something mysterious filled it in and 
covered it with turf? And then there was the way that wrecked 
’rollers would vanish down to the last nut and bolt and the 
skeletons of the dead aboard. And there was the legend of Sam- 
droo the Tailor Turned Sailor and what he found in the metal 
chambers inside an island. The great white eye through which 
he saw what was outside the island. And the other parapher- 
nalia. They weren’t the property of a wicked magician, as the 
tale would have it. Any Earthman would recognize TV and 
radar and dials and controls.” 

“Tell me more.” 

“I will when we get over this wall.” 

Green had stopped before a barrier of stone, reaching at 
least forty feet high. A grim crown, it completely encircled the 
top of the hill. “Once it must have been difficult to scale, but 
mortar has crumbled here and there, and vines grow all the way 
up. Follow me. I remember exactly the path I took.” 

He jumped up on a little ledge, seized a thick vine and 
hauled himself up to another minor projection. Unhesitatingly, 
the boy swarmed up after him. 

Panting, they reached the top, where they rested a moment 
and wiped the blood from their lacerated fingertips. The cat 
was the only one that seemed unperturbed. Silently, Green 
pointed out the twenty foot high statue of the Fish Goddess 
below, her back turned to them as she gestured at the cave 
mouth with the rocket-shaped charm. 

For the first time Grizquetr seemed scared. Like all his 
fellows, he had an unhealthy awe for the supernatural. This 
place, so walled off, so utterly ancient-looking, so invested 
with all the attributes of taboo, so invocative of the horrible 
tales of demons and angry gods, depressed him. Only his 
father’s seeming indifference to any fiends they might en- 
counter kept him from turning tail and backing down the wall. 

“One thing I’ll bet, and that is that Miran didn’t follow me 
this far but stayed down on the ground. With that belly of 


his he’d never have made it; he’d have tumbled off like a big 
fat bug and been squashed like one, too. Wouldn’t that have 
been awfull However, he didn’t have to go all the way with 
me. The very fact that I would dare to enter a taboo area is 
enough to condemn me. I should have slit his throat when 
Amra told me he’d been shadowing me. But I couldn’t do it 
without absolutely convincing evidence, and even if I’d had 
that I suppose I’m too civilized to kill him in cold blood.” 
“You should have told me how you felt,” said Grizquetr. “I 
would have slipped a dagger through the tallow over his ribs.” 
“No doubt, and so would your mother. Well, down we go.” 
And he set the example by throwing his leg over the edge 
of the wall and letting himself down, somewhat gingerly. The 
descent was even worse than the ascent, but he didn’t bother 
telling the boy that. By the time he found out he’d be at the 

Even so, when he reached ground, he thought that the lad 
couldn’t be one whit more shaky than he. Forty feet was a 
long, long way when you were up on top looking down, es- 
pecially in the moonlight. 

“This is the second time I’ve done it, but I don’t think I’d 
have guts enough for a third time,” said Green. 

“But we have to climb back out, don’t we?” 

“Oh, we’ll have to go over it, but I hope it won’t be so high 
by then,” said Green, looking mysterious. 

“What do you mean?” 

“Well I hope those stones will all be tumbled to the ground. 
In fact, it’s a necessity, if we’re to do what I expect to do.” 

He took the bewildered boy by the hand and led him past 
the cold and silent statue and into the cave’s entrance. “We 
could use a light,” he said, “but a torch would have been too 
awkward to carry up that wall, and we can grope our way to 
the rooms that are lighted.” 

Wonder why the passageway wasn’t lighted, too? he thought. 
Or had this cave been added by the savages who used to live on 
the island, so that the sanctum sanctorum would have to be 
approached through darkness? Perhaps it was, the primitives 
having constructed such a chamber so that the initiate into 
the religion could go through darkness both literal and sym- 


bolical and come into a light that also embraced both worlds? 
He didn’t and couldn’t know; he could only guess. 

But I can take advantage of what I do have on hand, he said 
to himself, gritting his teeth with determination. 

The dust beneath his feet gave way to clean metal. They 
rounded a comer and found themselves in a chamber much 
like the one upon their first island, except that this had furni- 
ture. A skeleton lay in the middle of the floor, face down. The 
back of the skull exhibited a great hole. 

“He may have been here for a thousand years or more,” 
said Green. “I’d like to know his story. But I never will.” 
“Do you think the Goddess killed him?” 

“No, nor the demons either. It was the hand of man struck 
him down, my boy. If it’s violent death you’re trying to ex- 
plain, don’t drag in the supernatural. There’s enough murder 
in the hearts of humankind to take care of every case.” 

In the third room Green said, “There’s no wall of dust 
to stop us. The ionic charges haven’t stopped working. Notice 
how clean everything is. Ah, here we are I Before the door!” 
Grizquetr looked puzzled. “Door? I see only a blank wall.” 
“That’s all I saw too,” said Green, “and that is all I would 
ever have seen, if it hadn’t been for the tale of Samdroo.” 
“Let me tell you how you got in!” chattered the boy ex- 
citedly. “I know what you were thinking of, what you did. You 
stood before the wall and you made a sign like this on it!” — 
He traced a rough outline of a rocket against the cool white 
metal — “and the wall suddenly slid to one side, and you had 
an entrance. Seel” 

A whole section had moved noiselessly into the wall, leav- 
ing a round doorway. 

“Yes, I remembered the story of Samdroo and, though it was 
ridiculous to think that it would work, I did what the Sailor 
did. Remember that the cannibals were after him, and he 
ran into the cave and came to just such a blank wall. And he, 
wishing to protect himself against the evil spirits that he was 
sure lived in the cave, traced the sign that is supposed to pre- 
vent them from touching a man. And the door slid open and 
he plunged on into the chambers of the wicked magician, the 
savages howling frustratedly after him. 


“And,” continued Green, “I did just what he did, and the 
sign proved to be an Open, O Sesame for me,” 

“A what?” 

“Never mind. The point is that the ancient maintenance 
men must have used just such a gesture to open the door, or 
else used it in conjunction with other means. And if they did, 
then they must also have been repair technicians for the ships 
that landed here. Perhaps the sign of the rocket was a secret 
symbol for their guild. I don’t know, but it sounds reasonable.” 
Ignoring the boy’s flood of questions, he walked into a great 
room. It was more bare than he’d expected when he had found 
it the first time; it contained four machines or their fuel sup- 
plies, all concealed in four large square metal containers. In 
the center of the room was a chair and an instrument panel. 
The panel contained six TV windows, several oscilloscopes, 
and dials whose purpose he didn’t know. But the controls 
attached to the arms of the chair seemed simple enough. 

“The only trouble,” he said, “is that I don’t know where the 
activating switch is. I tried to find it the other night and 
couldn’t. Yet, it must be so obvious that I’ll feel like a fool 
when I do locate it.” 

Vainly he pulled at the little levers set in the arms. 

“My failure to activate this was the main reason I returned 
to the yacht and sailed on to Estorya. Of course, I had to go 
and find out just what the situation was and get a good idea of 
my plan of campaign. Perhaps if I’d stayed here and taken 
a chance on going into the city blind, we’d have been better off. 
At least, your mother wouldn’t now be in prison, and we 
wouldn’t have the additional worry of rescuing her.” 

He rose from the chair and began pacing back and forth. 
“How ironic if I’d come this far and could get no farther! 
But then, what else could I expect? It’s up to me to solve 
this, and I’m not infallible, omniscient. It should be functioning 
as of now. I know that the ring of rocket-shapes has got it 
paralyzed so it can’t act. Nevertheless, unless it’s blown a fuse, 
gone neurotic from frustration, or just worn out, there should 
be some indication that it is still in operation.” 

“What do you mean?” said Grizquetr. “How can the island 
be paralyzed?” 

Green stopped pacing to gesture at the radarscopes. “See 


those? Well, there ^should be some funny lines squiggling 
across it, or little dots moving, or arcs sweeping across it. They 
would be indicating the shapes of things in the immediate 
neighborhood outside the island, and the lay of the land. Thus, 
I imagine that in the ancient days, when it spotted a rocket 
shape, which would then have been a genuine spaceship and 
not a mockup, it would have detoured around it. The whole 
island was, in one of its functions, a field attendant, a scav- 
enger. It removed anything from the plain that wasn’t supposed 
to be there. There’s why they now attack Tollers and crush 
them and disintegrate the parts that fall beneath their bases. 
That also explains why the island is trapped by a ring of rocket- 
shaped towers. The radar detects a complete circle and, being 
unable to molest any object shaped like a rocket, it squats in 
one place until it runs down or the rocket shapes are removed. 

“Of course, it worked automatically. But there were con- 
trols for a man to operate it when there was a special job to 
do or if he had to take it to another place it ordinarily wouldn’t 
go when on automatic. These controls must be the ones. 

“The question is, does the island switch itself off and on 
at certain intervals, scanning the area around it to see if the 
inhibiting objects have gone? If so, there’s no telling how long 
we may have to wait before its next sweep. And we just can’t 
afford to wait!” 

He was in agony. As long as he could keep his body and 
brain in action, he felt he was progressing. But as soon as he 
had to wait upon some inanimate object that he couldn’t at- 
tack, or came across a seemingly unsolvable problem, he was 
lost. He just didn’t have the patience. 

Lady Luck whined. She was tired of being imprisoned in 
the bag at Green’s waist and felt that she had been a good girl 
long enough. 

Absently, he lifted her out and put her on the table. She 
stretched, yawned, licked her lips, and then padded across 
the table. Her tail switched back and forth, and its tip brushed 
the surface of the centrally located TV screen. 

Immediately, a metal ball on the panel glowed red and a 
sharp whistle sounded. Two seconds later, light sprang into 
being in all of the viewers. 



“Oh, you beauty, you doll, you lovely Lady Luck! What- 
ever would I do without you!” shouted Green. He started for- 
ward to caress the cat but, alarmed, she jumped from the table 
and sped across the room. 

“Come back, come back!” he called. “I wouldn’t hurt a 
single one of your lovely black hairs! I’ll feed you on beer 
and fish the rest of your life, and you’ll never have to put in 
a day’s work!” 

“What’s the matter?” said Grizquetr. 

Green hugged him, then sat down in the chair. 

“Nothing, except that that wonderful cat showed me how 
to activate the equipment. You do so by brushing your hand 
across this screen. See, I’ll bet you do the same when you want 
to de-activate it!” 

He touched the screen. The whistle sounded again, the 
metal ball ceased glowing and the screens went dead. Once 
again he touched it, and life came back. 

“Nothing to it. But chances are I’d never have found out 
how simple it was.” 

He began sobering up. “Down to work. Let’s see . . .” 

The six TV windows showed them the north, east, south, 
west, above and below. As the island was resting upon solid 
dirt there was, of course, nothing to see beneath. 

“We’ll remedy that. But first I think we’d better see if these 
screens give expanding and contracting views.” 

He fiddled around with the levers. When he depressed the 
second one, the room jumped. Hastily replacing it in neutral, 
Green said, “Well, we know what that one does. I’ll bet the 
people outside think they had a slight earthquake. They’ve 
seen nothing yet. Hmmm. Here, I think, is the one I want.” 

He twisted a knob on the right-hand arm. All the TV’s be- 
gan narrowing their field of vision. Reversing the knob, how- 
ever, made them spread out their view, though the objects in 
them, of course, became smaller. 


It took him five minutes more of cautious testing before he 
felt justified in beginning operations. Then he raised the island 
off the ground about twenty feet and rocked it back and forth. 
Lady Luck leaped for his lap and cowered down in it. Griz- 
quetr, bracing himself against the table, turned pale. 

“Relax, kid,” called Green. “As long as you’re going along 
on the ride you might as well enjoy it.” 

Grizquetr grinned feebly, but when his father told him to 
stand behind him so he, too, could leam how to operate, he 
gained color and confidence. 

“When we get to Estorya I may have to leave this chamber, 
and I’ll need somebody who can see me through the TV’s 
and answer my signals. You’re the candidate. You may be 
only a kid, but anybody who can calmly talk of slipping a knife 
through a man’s ribs has what it takes.” 

“Thank you,” breathed Grizquetr in all sincerity. 

“Here’s what I’ll do,” said Green. “I’ll roll this island back 
and forth until the soldiers are thoroughly panicky and seasick. 
And the walls around the cave are tumbled down. Then we’ll 
lower to earth again and give the rats a chance to desert the 
ship. But we’re no sinking ship, not us. After everybody that’s 
able has fled to the plains, we’ll take off at top speed for Es- 

Fascinated, the boy watched the screens and saw the sol- 
diers run off into the early morning light, yelling, their eyes 
and mouths bulging with horror. Some, wounded, crawled 

“I feel sorry for them,” said Green, “but somebody’s got to 
get hurt before this is over and I’d rather it wasn’t us.” 

He pointed to the ’scopes, which still indicated the ring 
of towers. 

“As long as this island was on automatic it couldn’t pass 
those inhibitories. But I’ve by-passed that with this switch. 
Now, we go ahead, and not over the towers, as we could easily 
do, but through them. I think we’ve got the weight behind us.” 

There was a slight shock, the rooms trembled, then the 
towers before them were gone and they were speeding across 
the plain. Minute by minute Green increased their rate, until 
he thought they must be making about a hundred and twenty- 
five miles an hour. 


% ‘Those dials are probably telling me my speed,” he said to 
f Grizquetr. “But I can’t read their alphabet or numerical sys- 
tem. It doesn’t matter.” 

He laughed as he watched ’rollers wheel hard aport or hard 
to starboard in a frenzy to get out of their way. The rails and 
ratlines were lined with white faces, like rags of terror flutter- 
ing in the breeze of the island’s passage. 

“If there were time to send a message, I imagine we’cf en- 
counter the whole Estoryan fleet,” said Green. “What a battla 
that would be! Rather, what a massacre, for this craft is built 
for eating up whole navies.” 

“Father,” said Grizquetr, “we could be king over the! whole 
world, we could rule the Xurdimur and take tribute off every 
’roller that sailed!” 

“Yes, I suppose we could, you little barbarian, you,” re- 
plied Green. “But we won’t. We’re using this for just one pur- 
pose, rescuing the Earthman and your mother and sisters. 
After that . . 


“I don’t know.” 

He fell into a reverie as the plain beneath raced past, the 
white sails of the ’rollers blooming from small patches tp great 
flags, then dwindling as swiftly. 

Finally, rousing from his thoughts, he began to explain a 
little to the boy. 

“You see, many thousands of years ago there was a great 
civilization that had many machines that would seem to you 
even more magical than this one. They traveled to the stars 
and there found worlds much like this one, and they put colo- 
nies upon them. They had swift ships that could jump across 
the vast abyss between these worlds and so keep in fairly close 

“But something happened, some catastrophe. I can’t imagine 
what it could be, but it must have happened. While it would be 
interesting to know the cause, all we can know is the effect. 
Travel ceased, and as time went by the colonies, which were 
probably rather small to begin with, lost their civilization. The 
colonies must have been rather dependent upon supplies 
shipped to them, and they must have had a limited number of 
highly trained scientists and specialists among them. Anyway, 


whatever the reason, they relapsed into savagery. And it was 
not until ages had passed that some of these colonies, utterly 
without memory of their glorious heritage, except perhaps dis- 
guised in myth and legend, attained a high technology again. 
Others stayed in savagery; some, like your world, Grizquetr, 
are in the transition stage. Your culture is roughly analogous 
to the ones that existed on Earth between 100 a.d. and 1000 
a.q. Those dates mean nothing to you, I know, but let me 
assure you that we present-day Terrestrials regard those times 
as being, well, rather hazardous and, uh, unreasonable in 
their conduct.” 

“I only half-understand you,” replied the boy. “But didn’t 
you say that nothing of the wisdom of the ancients survived on 
your planet? Well, why had it done so on ours? These islands 
must be the work of the old ones.” 

“Correct! And that’s not all. So is the Xurdimur itself.” 

“Yes, it’s obvious to me that this planet must once have been 
a tremendous clearing-house and landing field for spacecraft. 
These plains couldn’t be natural; they must have been leveled 
out by machinery. A laboratory-bom grass was planted that 
had all the characteristics needed to hold the soil together and 
keep erosion away. Plus the fact that the islands themselves 
were, you might say, caretakers, and kept the whole field 
spruced up. 

“Gods! I can imagine what a traffic this planet must have 
had to build such a landing-field! Ten thousand miles across! 
The mind boggles before the thought. They must have done 
things on a big scale then. Which makes it all the more difficult 
to figure out how they could have come to ruin. Will we ever 
know what force wrecked them?” 

Grizquetr, of course, had even less of an answer than Green. 
Both were silent for a while; then they cried out simultaneously 
when the pointed tips of the white towers surrounding Estorya 
glittered upon the horizon. One of the screens began flashing a 
series of cone shapes that indicated the towers. 

“If the island were still on automatic it would be forced to 
go around the entire nation,” said Green. “But I’m running it 
now, and we’re paying no attention to those towers.” 

“Knock ’em down!” 


“That’s just what I intend to do. But not right now. Let’s 
see. Wonder how high we can go. Only one way to find out. 

He pulled back the lever and the island began rising, though 
still maintaining its horizontal attitude. 

‘The ancients, like us modems, knew how to build anti- 
gravity machines. And they also must have kept building their 
spaceships in the conventional rocket-form long after there 
was any need for it. Perhaps, though, they did so in order for 
the islands to have a more definite radar image. Maybe. No 
one really knows.” j. 

He spoke to himself, meanwhile glancing at the screen 
which showed him the plains and the city of Estorya beneath, 
ever-dwindling as their height increased. 

“Do me a favor, Grizquetr. Run out to the cave’s mouth and 
tell me if those walls have fallen over. And on your way back, 
close the door to this room. It’s going to get colder very quick- 
ly, and the air will be thin. But I imagine that this room is 
equipped with automatic heat and oxygen. If it isn’t I want to 
find out now.” 

The boy began running back. “The walls are all shaken down, 
all rightl” he said, breathlessly. “And the Fish Goddess fell 
over, and her head almost blocks up the cave’s mouth. I 
wriggled through without any trouble. 1 think you can squeeze 

Green felt a little sick. That possibility had not occurred to 
him. It would have been ironic if the statue had completely 
blocked the entrance and he’d had to stay inside until he 
starved to death. The Estoryans, of course, would have con- 
sidered his death a case of poetical justice . . . No, he wouldn’t 
have died, either! He’d just have gone back to the controls and 
rolled the island over on one side until the statue’s head came 
loose. But what if the big stone blocks from the tumbled wall 
had fallen down behind the statue so that they wedged her too 
tightly to be released? He sweated at the thought and glanced 
fondly at the black cat. He wasn’t superstitious, not at all, but 
it seemed to him that his luck had been better since she’d 
adopted him. Of course, that wasn’t the scientific attitude to 
take; nevertheless he felt comforted just knowing she was 


By now, the whole nation of Estorya could be encompassed 
in one glance. And the sky was getting darker. 

“We’re high enough.” He stopped the island. “If anybody 
didn’t get off, he must be dead by now, the air’s so thin. And 
I was right. We do have automatic heat and air-providers. 
Very comfortable in here. I only wish we had something to 

“Why not lower us to the height where I can go out and 
find food in the garrison’s kitchens?” said Grizquetr. “No- 
body’ll be alive to stop me.” 

Green thought that was an excellent suggestion. He was 
very hungry, for he always had to eat for two, himself and 
the Vigilante. If the symbiote within his body provided him 
with more than normal strength and powers, it also demanded 
fuel on which to operate. And, deprived of food, it would 
survive by living upon Green’s tissue. A Vigilante wasn’t all 
advantage; it had its dangers. 

He lowered the island to about two thousand feet, set the 
controls on neutral, then decided that it would be safe to go 
out with the boy. Just as he got to the doorway, however, he 
began feeling uneasy and wondering what he would do if, 
somehow, the door closed and he couldn’t get it open again. 
That would be a fine situation, to be stuck two thousand feet 
in the air, and no parachute! 

Perhaps he was silly, absurdly apprehensive, but he wasn’t 
going to take any more chances. Grinning sheepishly, he told 
the boy to go on by himself. He’d decided to study the controls 
more closely and think out his strategy in finer detail. 

When Grizquetr returned with a basket loaded with food 
and wine, Green swore at himself for his moment’s weakness, 
then forgot it. After all, discretion was the better part and 
all that, and he was only playing it smart. 

Greedily, he devoured the food and drank half a bottle of 
wine, knowing the Vigilante would use alcohol before food 
and that little of it would remain in his bloodstream before 
being consumed. Between bites, he told Grizquetr what he 

“We’ll descend as soon as we’re finished eating. I’ll write 
a note, and you’ll drop it over the side upon the steps of the 
palace. The note will inform the King he’d better release his 


prisoners, unharmed, just outside the windbreak. There we 
may easily pick them up and then take off like the proverbial 
big bird. If he refuses we will proceed to lower the island upon 
the Temple of the Fish Goddess, crushing it and her jewel- 
encrusted golden idol. And if he still isn’t convinced we’ll 
then smash the palace, not to mention toppling over the en- 
tire ring of towers around the country. Of course, before we 
drop the note we’ll knock over a few anyway just to show him 
we’re not bluffing.” 

Grizquetr’s eyes shone. “Can the island crush a big build- 

“Yes, though I think that there’s a possibility we could as 
easily disintegrate it. I’ve wondered how the island cut the 
grass, and can only conclude that it must use a device siijiilar 
to one we have on Earth. It cuts through objects by ‘breaking 
up their atomic structure with a beam that is only a molecule- 
thick. When on grass-cutting duty, the island must emit such 
a beam, and only beneath its base. Of course, it must" have 
other machines, too, for cleaning up wreckage and debris and 
other stuff that its memory banks tell it has no business being 
on the field. But I don’t know how to operate these.” 

Grizquetr looked reproachfully at Green. 

“Well, I don’t know everything. I’m not a superman, am 

The boy did not reply, but his expression conveyed the idea 
that he had thought his foster-father was just that. Green 
shrugged his shoulders and sent the boy out to get paper, pen 
and ink from the garrison. By the time the boy returned, 
Green had lowered the island to about fifty feet above the 
palace. He hastily wrote a note, put it in the basket, which had 
a cover that could be snapped shut, and told Grizquetr to 
throw it over the side, aiming at the steps. 

“I know you’re going to be worn out with all this running 
back and forth,” he said, “but you can do it. You’re big and 

“Sure I am,” said the boy. Chest expanded, he dashed from 
the room, almost tripped going through the door, recovered, 
and disappeared. Grinning, Green began to watch the crowds 
that had gathered below. Presently he saw the basket hurtle 
toward a group of priests upon the great stairway. His grin 


broadened when the group disintegrated in panic and several 
of them lost their footing and rolled down the steps. 

He waited until one of them got enough courage to return 
and open the basket. Then he lowered the island another 
twenty feet. At the same time, he saw a cannon being hauled 
into the square before the palace and its nose being raised so 
that it could fire upon him. 

“Have to give the beggars credit for guts,” he murmured. 
“Or for sheer folly, I don’t know which. Well, fire away, 

They didn’t, because a priest came running to stop them. 
Evidently, his note, though written in Huinggro, had been 
translated swiftly enough, and the Estoryans were taking no 
hasty action. 

“While we’re waiting for them to make up their minds 
we’ll give them a taste of the feast they can expect if they 
aren’t reasonable,” Green said. 

. He then proceeded to push over about twenty towers just 
outside the windbreak. It was great fun, and he’d have liked to 
knock down a hundred or so more, but he was too anxious 
to find out about Amra and the Earthman. He returned to 
his former vigil above the palace steps. 

Impatiently, he waited for ten minutes that seemed like 
ten hours. Finally, when he could bear it no longer, he growled, 
“I’m going to squat on the roof of the Temple and make them 
hurry up. Do they think this is a diplomatic conference or 
something, that they can dillydally about like this?” 

“No, father,” said Grizquetr. “There they come! Mother 
and Paxi and Soon and Inzax! And a strange man! He must 
be the demon!” 

“Demon, your horned hoof!” snorted Green. “That man’s 
as human as I am. And the poor fellow must have gone through 
hell. Even from this height I can see he looks bad. Look how 
he has to be supported between two soldiers.” 

Amra and the others, he was happy to note, seemed to be 

Nevertheless he was anxious about them during their ride 
through the city’s streets and out to the windbreak. The Es- 
toryans might have plans for a sudden attack, though he didn’t 
see how they could expect to surprise him, since from his 


vantage point, he would notice any concentration of troops 
immediately. Or, a fanatical priest might take it into his head 
to kill them. 

Neither of these possibilities happened. The prisoners were 
released outside the fallen towers, and the soldiers retreated 
into the city. Grizquetr left the control room to guide them 
onto the island. In fifteen minutes he ran back. 

“Here they are, Father! Savedl Now, get off the ground 
before the Estoryans change their minds.” 

“We’re going back,” replied Green, looking in vain for the 
others and then deciding that the boy had outstripped them 
in his haste to report. He shoved the lever forward and the 
ship — he was beginning to think of the island as a ship — 
soared toward the cone of the spacecraft, which he could see 
glittering in the sun inside its wall near the palace. When 
Amra and the girls ran into the chamber and wished to throw 
their arms around him, he told them he’d be very glad to give 
each a big warm kiss later on. Right now he had work to do. 

Amra’s smile was replaced by a frown. 

“Do you mean you’re still thinking of leaving on the demon’s 
ship?” she said harshly. 

“That depends on certain factors about which I don’t have 
enough information as yet to act on,” he replied, somewhat 

The Earthman limped in. He was a tall, broad-shouldered 
but emaciated man. His bushy beard made his long, lean, big- 
eared, hawk-nosed face resemble Lincoln’s. 

“Captain Walzer of the Terrestrial Interstellar Fleet, In- 
telligence,” he said, weakly. 

“Alan Green, marine food specialist. I’ve a long story to 
tell and no time to tell it. I would like to know if you can 
pilot that spacer and if it’s in operating condition. Otherwise 
we might as well forget it and go elsewhere.” 

“Yes, I’m the pilot. Hassan was the navigator and communi- 
cations officer. Poor devil, he died in agony I Those beasts ... 1” 

“I know how you feel, but we’ve no time to go into that. 
Is the ship ready to take off?” 

Walzer sat down and leaned his head wearily to one side. 
Grizquetr offered him wine, and he took two long swallows 
and smacked his lips before replying. 


“Ah, that’s the first drink I’ve had for two years! Yes, the 
bird’s ready to take off on a moment’s notice. We’d been on 
a mission whose purpose I can’t tell you. Security, you know. 
We were returning when we encountered this system. Since 
it’s part of our duty to report any T-type planet if we’ve time, 
we decided to stop off and stretch our legs. We’d been in 
space so long we were beginning to suffer from claustrophobia 
and were ready to fly at each other’s throats. You know how 
it is if you’ve made any very long voyages. And those scouts 
have especially cramped quarters. They’re not made for long 
trips, but the nature of our mission required the use of one 
. . . well, we won’t go into that. 

“Anyway, we were wild to breathe fresh air again, to see a 
horizon, to feel grass beneath our bare feet, to go swimming, 
to eat freshly killed meat and freshly picked fruit. We rational- 
ized ourselves into the idea that it was our duty to land. We 
decided on this city because it was so conspicuous, stuck out 
here in the middle of this incredible plain. And, of course, 
when we got close enough to see that it seemed to be sur- 
rounded by a ring of spaceships we had to enter the city itself 
and inquire about this phenomenon. We were greeted friend- 
lily enough, lulled into being off guard, then attacked. The 
rest of the story you know.” 

Green nodded and said, “Here we are. Just above the ship.” 
He rose from the chair and faced the group. “But before 
we take any further steps I think we ought to thrash out 
something right now that has been bothering Amra and me. 
Tell me, Walzer, is there enough room for Amra, Paxi, Soon, 
Grizquetr and myself? And perhaps for Inzax, if she wished 
to come along?” 

Walzer’s eyes widened. “No, man, absolutely notl There’s 
barely space for you, let alone anybody else.” 

Green held out his hands to Amra. “You see? I was afraid 
of this all the time. I’ll have to go without you.” 

He paused, swallowed, then said, “But I’ll return! I swear 
I will! I’ll get the Interstellar Archaeology Bureau interested 
in this planet. When I tell them of the Xurdimur, of the rocket- 
shaped towers, of the islands with their anti-gravity machines, 
they’ll not hesitate a moment in organizing an expedition. The 
chance of solving the mystery of how man spread all over 


the Galaxy in prehistoric times will be too strong for them. 

“And I’ll come back with them. And I’ll make this planet 
my life work. I’ve a Ph.D. in ichthyology, and I can get ac- 
credited as a scientific member of the expedition. There’s no 
doubt about it!” 

Amra fell into his arms, weeping, crying that she had known 
all the time that he couldn’t leave her. Then in the next 
breath she was swearing that he was just promising to return 
so he would avoid a scene. 

“I know men well, Alan Green, and I know you, especially. 
You won’t come back!” 

“Yes, I will, I swear it. If you know men so well, you ought 
to know that no man who is worthy of being called a man 
could even think of leaving a woman like you.” 

She smiled through her tears and said, “That’s what I wanted 
to hear you say. But, oh, Alan, it’ll be so long. Won’t it take 
at least two years?” 

“Yes, at least. But it can’t be helped. I’ll worry about you 
while I’m gone. Or I would if I didn’t know how capable you 

“I can leam how to run this island,” she said half-sobbing, 
half-smiling. “By the time you get back I’ll probably be Queen 
of the Xurdimur. I could contact the Vings, and together we 
could have the whole plain and every city along its border 
under our thumbs. And . . .” 

He laughed and said, “That was what I was afraid of.” 

Turning to Walzer, he said, “Look, you’re too weak to con- 
sider another long trip immediately. Why don’t you just follow 
this island in your ship until we get to a safe distance from 
here, say about a thousand miles due north? We’ll live on the 
island until you get your strength back and get over your 
claustrophobia. I imagine it wasn’t helped any by being cooped 
up in that dungeon. When you’re ready we’ll take off. In the 
meantime I can be showing Amra and Grizquetr just what can 
be done with the island. She can be living on it while I’m gone. 
We’ll trap wild life to replace the animals that were strangled 
when I went up too high for them to breathe. She can shuttle 
back and forth over the Xurdimur, or over the whole planet 
if she wishes. And she will, I hope, stay out of mischief until 
I get back.” 


“That’s fine,” said Walzer. “I’ll get in the ship and follow 

Three weeks later, the two Earthmen boarded the scout and 
closed the port behind them, the port that would not open 
again until they were on Earth, some four months subjective 
time away. They sat down in the control cabin, and Walzer 
began pushing buttons and throwing switches. 

Green wiped the sweat from his brow, the tears from his 
eyes, and said, “Whew!” 

“A fine woman,” said Walzer, sympathetically. “A rare 
beauty. She has a tremendous impact upon one.” 

“Something like crashing into a planet head-on,” said Green. 
“She has the faculty of wringing out every last bit of energy 
left in the particular emotion she happens to be feeling at the 
moment. A great actress who believes in her roles.” 

“Her children are fine children, too,” Walzer added, slowly 
and as if he were about to say something that might hurt 
Green’s feelings but was anxious not to do so. “You will be 
glad to see them again, of course.” 

“Of course. After all, Paxi’s my daughter, I love the others 
as if they were also mine.” 

“Ah,” breathed Walzer. “Then you are going back to her?” 

Green didn’t express surprise or anger, because he had 
guessed from Walzer’s actions just what he was thinking. 

“You can’t imagine my wanting to live on that barbaric 
planet with that woman, can you?” he said, evenly. “That after 
all, there are serious gaps in our ways of thinking, in our 
behavior, in our education. Isn’t that what you meant by your 

Walzer glanced out of the corners of his eyes at Green, 
then replied warily, “Well, yes. But you know what you want 
far better than I do.” He paused, then added, “I must say I 
admire your courage.” 

Green shrugged. 

“After all I’ve been through I’m not afraid to take one more 


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